LONDON – The team in London of Dr. Fotios Sambaziotis, a hepatologist of Greek descent has discovered that an off-patent drug for various liver diseases, UDCA (ursodeoxycholic acid), can prevent Covid-19 infection and protect against future variants of the coronavirus scientists there announced.
The relevant experiments were done on organoids (mini human organs), animals, human organs from donors, healthy volunteers, and patients. The researchers, led by Dr. Sambaziotis of the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute of the University of Cambridge, published their findings in the journal Nature.
The research showed that the drug can ‘lock’ the ‘gate of entry’ (the ACE2 receptor on cell surfaces) that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to enter and infect human cells. Because the drug targets human cells and not the constantly mutating virus, it is estimated that it may retain its protective effectiveness against future variants of the coronavirus or against other coronaviruses that may emerge.
If the findings are confirmed by larger clinical trials, then scientists will have a vital new drug on their hands, very useful especially for people who have not had a vaccine or for whom the vaccine is ineffective, as well as for people at high risk of infection.
As explained by Dr. Sambaziotis, vaccines protect us by strengthening our immune system so that it recognizes the virus and eliminates it or at least weakens it. But vaccines do not work for everyone, for example those with weakened immune systems, and also not everyone has access to them. The virus can also mutate into new vaccine-resistant variants. Thus, the researchers were interested in finding alternative ways to protect ourselves from the coronavirus infection, which do not depend on the immune system and can complement vaccination. They discovered a way to close the door on the virus, preventing it from entering our cells in the first place and protecting us from infection.”
Professor Andrew Owen of the University of Liverpool points out that although standard controlled randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings, the data provide compelling evidence that UDCA can work as a drug that protects against Covid-19 and works adjunctively with the vaccination programs, especially for vulnerable population groups.
Sambaziotis is a graduate of the University of Athens School of Medicine with a specialization in hepatology and a PhD from Cambridge. He is a co-founder of the biotechnology company Bilitech LTD, and noted that they have used UCDA in the clinic for many years, thus they know that it is safe and very well tolerated. It costs little, can be produced in large quantities quickly, and is easily stored or transported, making it handy during outbreaks, especially against vaccine-resistant variants, and can be the only line of defense while we wait for new vaccines to be developed.
They are optimistic that this drug can become an important weapon in the fight against Covid-19.”
Link to the scientific publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05594-0
(Material from Athens News Agency is used in this article)