UPDATE: On the Way to a Cure for Coronavirus?

Israeli professor makes breakthrough that could render COVID-19 no more dangerous than a common cold

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Coronavirus
Photo: Flash90

A professor at Hebrew University has discovered a drug that stops the coronavirus from reproducing. “The coronavirus will become like a common cold,” says Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, head of the Center for Bioengineering at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

In his laboratory experiments, the Israeli professor found that a drug already on the market named Fenofibrate suppresses the virus’s operation and prevents the coronavirus from replicating itself and taking over the lung cells. In an exclusive interview, Israel Today spoke with Prof. Nahmias to find out more about his discovery. “This would turn the COVID-19 into a type of common cold,” Prof. Nahmias said.

It should be emphasized, however, that at this point, the drug has not tested on patients with coronavirus, but only in the laboratory. “We hope to receive clinical approvals that will confirm our study within 3 months,” Nahmias told Israel Today. Experts say that it will most likely take at least six months to test the drug’s effectiveness and safety on patients before it can be approved for widespread use.

Prof. Nahmias at his laboratory in Jerusalem.

Prof. Nahmias found that the coronavirus spreads using fatty or lipid tissues in lung cells. Fenofibrate, which was approved for use in 1975 by the American Food and Drug Administration, is used to treat high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. In the laboratory experiments, it was found that Fenofibrate breaks up the fats blocking the ability of the coronavirus to develop and spread. 

Clearly it will take time to prove these results on live patients to determine how safe and effective treatment will be. “The drug is active according to our findings at the usual dose for medical prescription. The drug is very safe for short periods of time. It will of course have side effects, as with many other medications, if it is taken over time,” Nahmias explained. “However, if someone is infected with the coronavirus, within two weeks the immune system can remove the virus. Our goal is to reduce the symptoms during the course of the disease,” Nahmias explained. 

Given initial reports on the discovery of how the coronavirus develops using lipid cells in the lungs, and the possibility of inhibiting its growth, experts are cautiously hopeful that this could be the cure for the disease the world is waiting for. Scientists and researchers will now be looking more closely at drugs and therapies like this that can prevent the virus from developing into a serious and sometimes fatal disease.

There is also an advantage in having an FDA approved drug like Fenofibrate that is already patented and can readily be produced for mass consumption. 

Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed within the next six months or so as many predict, there will still be a crucial need for treatments like Fenofibrate to treat the millions of people still infected with the virus. Are we beginning to see some light near the end of this dark pandemic crisis? Let’s hope so.

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