Hebrew University Professor Yaakov Nahmias. (Daniel Hanoch) (Daniel Hanoch)
HU Prof Yaakov Nahmias_Credit Daniel Hanoch

Israeli researchers figured out how COVID-19 attacks the lungs and discovered that a common cholesterol drug might beat the virus, which would downgrade corona’s threat to that of the common cold.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

A team of  researchers in Israel and their colleagues in New York have made a breakthrough discovery of related to how the coronavirus attacks the lungs, revealing that a common cholesterol treatment may be able to save lives.

“If our findings are borne out by clinical studies, this course of treatment could potentially downgrade COVID-19’s severity into nothing worse than a common cold,” Nahmias concluded.

Professor Yaakov Nahmias of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says that early research looks promising and what they discovered may be phenomenally complex, but the treatment is simple and apparently very effective.

Over the last three-months, Nahmias and Dr. Benjamin tenOever of New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital have focused on the ways in which the SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that’s causing our current pandemic) changes patients’ lungs in order to reproduce itself.

What they found was stunning. The coronavirus needs fat in order to reproduce, and because the virus prevents the routine burning of carbohydrates, people sick with the virus have large amounts of fat accumulating inside lung cells.

This new revelation helps explain why patients with high blood sugar and cholesterol levels are often at a particularly high risk to develop COVID-19.

Nahmias explains that viruses are parasites that lack the ability to replicate on their own, so they take control of our cells to help accomplish that task.

“By understanding how the SARS-CoV-2 controls our metabolism, we can wrestle back control from the virus and deprive it of the very resources it needs to survive,” Nahmias said.

Knowing that fat in cells is part of the problem, Nahmias and tenOever went through different existing medications to see which ones interfered with the coronavirus’ ability to reproduce, discovering that the cholesterol-lowering drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) showed extremely promising results.

Treating with Fenofibrate allows lung cells to burn more fat, breaking the virus’ grip on these cells and preventing the coronavirus from reproducing. They found that within only five days of treatment, the virus almost completely disappeared.

“With second-wave infections spiking in countries across the globe, these findings couldn’t come at a better time,” said Nahmias.

Recent reports are showing that vaccines being developed may be effective in the short term, but there are indications that the protection might only last for a few months.

Nahmias says that blocking the virus’ ability to function, rather than neutralizing its ability to strike in the first place, may be the key to turning the tables on COVID-19.

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