JAN 11, 2023

Canadian sea sponge contains COVID-blocking compounds

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have studied the virus with a near singular purpose: finding ways to treat the emergent virus and prevent the development of severe infections that can lead to death. While the development and rollout of vaccines has been a triumph and saved lives, the search for COVID-19 treatments to prevent severe disease in at-risk populations is still needed. These new treatments are especially necessary as new variants emerge to provide people with more robust protection.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have recently made new breakthroughs in the search for antiviral treatments for COVID-19 infection, and have found solutions in a range of plants, animals, and fungi, including certain species of Canadian sea sponges. The team’s worked in published in Antiviral Research.

Specifically, researchers turned to compounds that occur naturally in nature, given them a wide range of compounds to choose from, test, and study. In total, researchers were able to compile a listing of about 350 different compounds that could have antiviral potential against viruses like COVID-19. To test each of these compounds, researchers took actual human lungs cells and soaked them in solutions that contained each of the 350 different compounds. Then, each set of human lung cells was exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 infection, and studied how the cells responded.

In all, researchers found that about 26 of the compounds were able to entirely remove the viral infection from these cells, with only about three compounds able to do so in very small quantities

The three compounds were all found in organisms native to Canada, including a sea sponge and marine bacteria. The three compounds identified by researchers included the following:

·       Alotaketal C

·       Bafilomycin D

·       Holyrine A

Additional testing of these compounds revealed they were about as safe for humans, as existing COVID-19 treatments, and they exhibited a good deal of efficacy against various SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the delta and omicron variants.  

For next steps, researchers plan to test the compounds in animal models, a necessary first step to before human trials can be considered.

Sources: Eurekalert!; Antiviral Research