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Natural Human Lipid That Prevents SARS-CoV-2 from Binding to Cells Could be Used as Nasal Spray to Treat COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 Sep 2020
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Image: Natural Human Lipid That Prevents SARS-CoV-2 from Binding to Cells Could be Used as Nasal Spray to Treat COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of University of Cincinnati (URMC)
Image: Natural Human Lipid That Prevents SARS-CoV-2 from Binding to Cells Could be Used as Nasal Spray to Treat COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of University of Cincinnati (URMC)
By examining pre-existing research for other conditions, a team of researchers have found a natural agent which could be a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (URMC Cincinnati, OH, USA) established that a lipid found in the human body could be used to prevent or treat infections with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The lipid, called sphingosine, is a natural element taken from the body and is important in the lipid metabolism of all cells and the local immune defense in epithelial cells, a type of cell that lines the surfaces of the body including skin, blood vessels, urinary tract and organs. They serve as a barrier between the inside and outside of the body and protect it from viruses.

“We investigated whether a specific lipid is able to interfere with the binding of SARS-CoV-2 to human epithelial cells,” said corresponding author Erich Gulbins, MD, a visiting professor in UC’s Department of Surgery. “Sphingosine has been shown in past studies to prevent and eliminate bacterial infections of the respiratory tract, but it is unknown if it can be used to prevent viral infections. The coronavirus needs to bind to specific molecules on the surface of human cells as a prerequisite to infect them.”

“This is similar to the key and lock principle of a door: To open the door you must insert the key into the lock. We show that the lipid sphingosine binds into the cellular ‘lock,’ the receptor ACE2, for SARS-CoV-2 and thereby prevents binding of the virus to and infection of human cells,” explained Gulbins.

Researchers in this study analyzed the use of this lipid in regulating infection in cultured human cells with SARS-CoV-2 particles added.

“We showed that sphingosine prevented cellular infection in these cultures, and pretreatment of cultured cells or freshly obtained human nasal epithelial cells with low concentrations of sphingosine prevented adhesion of and infection with the virus,” said Gulbins.

“These findings indicate that sphingosine prevents at least some viral infection by interfering with the interaction of the virus with its receptor; it could be used as a nasal spray to prevent or treat infections with SARS-CoV-2,” he added. “The nasal spray must be developed, but sphingosine is a natural product. More research is needed to see if this could be a treatment for COVID-19.”

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University of Cincinnati (URMC)


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