Inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 Virus Infectivity With Vitamins and Steroids

Pre-existing high cholesterol levels have been associated with increased risk for severe COVID-19.

A recent paper published in the journal of the German Chemical Society called Angewandte Chemie, discusses how vitamins D, K, A and some antiviral therapies may potentially help fight off an infection with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The study was conducted by investigators from the University of Bristol.

"Obesity is a major risk factor for severe COVID. Vitamin D is fat soluble and tends to accumulate in fatty tissue. This can lower the amount of vitamin D available to obese individuals. Countries in which some of these vitamin deficiencies are more common have also suffered badly during the course of the pandemic,” Deborah Shoemark, a senior research associate in the School of Biochemistry said.

“Our research suggests that some essential vitamins and fatty acids including linoleic acid may contribute to impeding the spike/ACE2 interaction. Deficiency in any one of them may make it easier for the virus to infect."

In past studies, investigators from the university demonstrated that linoleic acid is able to bind to a specific site on the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, eventually locking it into a closed and less effective version. When this was discovered, they immediately started searching for other compounds that may exhibit a similar effect, potentially creating more treatments for the disease.

Using computational methods, the investigators conducted simulations with various vitamins and therapies to see which ones would bind to the fatty acid of the spike protein. They found that the therapy dexamethasone may do this, as well as vitamins D, K and A, potentially preventing the virus from entering and infecting cells.

These findings show that there are several drug candidates and currently available pharmaceuticals, as well as dietary components, that may have the ability to help in an infection with COVID-19.

"Our simulations show how some molecules binding at the linoleic acid site affect the spike's dynamics and lock it closed. They also show that drugs and vitamins active against the virus may work in the same way,” Adrian Mulholland, a professor at the Bristol’s School of Chemistry said. “Targeting this site may be a route to new anti-viral drugs. A next step would be to look at effects of dietary supplements and test viral replication in cells."