Drug used to treat high cholesterol could reduce the number of cells infected with COVID-19 by up to 70%

A drug typically used for patients with high cholesterol may also be able to treat people with COVID-19, a new study finds.

Researchers led by the University of Birmingham and Keele University in the UK found that the drug, fenofibrate, can reduce the number of cells infected by Covid by up to 70 percent.

Fenofibrate, sold under brand names such as Triglide and Lipofen, has already been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the team is now calling for more trials on the effectiveness of drugs against the virus.

The drug showed that it could prevent virus spike proteins from attaching to and infecting cells’ ACE2 receptors.

If approved, the drug would join remdesivir in the arsenal of therapies used to fight Covid.

Fenofibrate, a drug commonly used to fight high cholesterol, can reduce the amount of infected COVID cells by 70 percent, study shows

For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, researchers tested a panel of already approved drugs to see if existing treatments could also be applied to COVID.

They tested the drugs with isolated human cells infected with the original strain of the virus, as well as the alpha and beta variants, which came from the UK and South Africa respectively.

Fenofibrate was found to be the most effective of the panel.

Researchers now support a push for more trials on how the drug can fight the virus.

Two are already underway at the University of Pennsylvania in the US and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel.

The British team wants two more to start in the near future.

“Our data indicate that fenofibrate has the potential to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and also the spread of the virus,” Dr. Elisa Vicenzi, co-author of the study and expert on viral pathogens at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy

“Since fenofibrate is an oral drug that is very inexpensive and available worldwide, along with its extensive history of clinical use and good safety profile, our data has global implications – especially in low-middle-income countries and in those individuals for whom vaccines are not recommended or suitable, such as children, people with hyperimmune diseases and people taking immune suppressants.’

Although scientists have emphasized that vaccines are the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team still believes there is a need to develop more treatments, especially in the case of the creation of a vaccine-resistant virus strain.

“The development of new, more contagious SARS-CoV-2 variants has led to a rapid increase in infections and deaths in several countries around the world, especially the UK, US and Europe,” said co-author dr. Farhat Khanim, a biomedical physician. professor of science at the University of Birmingham.

“While vaccine programs will hopefully reduce the infection rate and virus spread in the longer term, there is still an urgent need to expand our arsenal of drugs to treat SARS-CoV-2 positive patients.”

In some countries, the vaccine may also not be readily available for years, making the development of more treatments essential.

“While vaccination programs are advancing rapidly in some countries, vaccination rates are variable and for most low-middle-income countries it is unlikely that a significant portion of the population will be vaccinated until 2022,” said study co-author Dr Alan Richardson, professor of pharmacology. at Birmingham University.

‘In addition, vaccination has been shown to reduce the number of infections and the severity of the disease, but we are not yet sure of the strength and duration of the response. There is still an urgent need for therapies to treat COVID-19 patients who develop symptoms or require hospitalization.”

Currently, there are four COVID-19 treatments available in the US.

Remdesivir, developed by Gilead and backed by former President Donald Trump, was the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment against COVID-19.

Three monoclonal antibody treatments are also available, including bamlanivimab (developed by Eli Lilly), REGN-COV2 (developed by Regeneron), and sotrovimab (developed by GlaxoSmithKline).