TAU researchers develop dietary supplement to provide protection against COVID-19

Supplement consists of substances found in fruits and vegetables and are considered safe

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Experts from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have shown that a new combination of common dietary supplements can provide protection against the COVID-19 virus as well as several common winter illnesses.

The study was led by Professor Ehud Gazit, Professor Eran Bacharach, and Professor Daniel Segal of the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research at TAU’s Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, together with PhD students Topaz Kreiser and David Zaguri, and other researchers. The paper was published in Pharmaceuticals.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical science has responded to the virus’s mutations, variants, and extensive contagion to minimize damage to human life and the economy. The battle against the virus currently relies primarily on RNA-based vaccines, alongside several anti-viral medications. But the virus changes very rapidly, and frequent updates are required to treatments and vaccines that are based on familiarizing the immune system with the virus. The same is true for flu viruses, another widespread cause of illness and death. 

“To address the rapid changes of the virus, we decided to develop active vaccines made of safe and easily obtainable dietary supplements, that would reduce the viral load in the body and cut down contagion,” Professor Gazit, who also heads TAU’s Blavatnik Center for Drug Discovery, says. “We have known for years that food supplements containing zinc can enhance immunity to severe, viral, and chronic infections and their potentially grave consequences.”

The researchers found that the consumption of zinc alone achieves a relatively low cellular content. To enhance the effect, they combined the zinc with flavonoids: polyphenolic compounds found in many fruits and vegetables. They also added copper to prevent an ionic imbalance and improve the treatment’s effectiveness.

“Advanced lab tests, including PCR, have shown that the new vaccines we developed did in fact reduce the viral load,” Professor Segal adds. “We found a 50-95% decrease in the genomic replication of various groups of RNA viruses, including COVID-19, the flu virus, and others. These results are very promising, possibly enabling the development of an orally administered biological shelf treatment. Such a product will be safe, natural, and effective against several types of viruses, including new mutations and variants, clearly an important step forward.”

So far all experiments were conducted in vitro in the lab, but the researchers are optimistic as to the study’s practical potential. Soon they hope to launch a series of clinical trials in humans, ultimately leading to an effective treatment accessible to everyone. Since the supplements are verified as safe for use, and in the light of the global pandemic, it was decided to promote the product to the general market before the results of the clinical trials.

“We are all taught from a young age that good medicine includes preventive medicine,” Professor Bacharach concludes. “The product that we hope to offer will cover a wide range of winter illnesses, including COVID-19 and the flu. The interesting aspect is the treatment’s potential flexibility: We found that a combination of several flavonoids with zinc helps protect cells against a wide range of RNA viruses. We believe that the product can serve as a supplementary treatment to enhance the effect of existing anti-viral vaccines and medications.”

Ramot, TAU’s technology transfer company, is leading advanced negotiations with an American company to receive a permit for marketing and distributing the product. “We see a great potential for a natural over-the-counter product that provides protection against COVID-19, as well as other viral infections,” says Keren Primor, Ramot CEO.

“We see a great potential for a natural over-the-counter product that provides protection against COVID-19, as well as other viral infections."