Research undertaken by a private New York-based institute has found that extracts from edible seaweed – the staple ingredient in Sushi – lodges a substantially powerful antiviral response against COVID-19 that even outperforms the present standard treatment remdesivir.
As of now there are no proper medications as such to fight the SARS-CoVI-2 virus that causes COVID-19; and healthcare authorities around the world are having to deal with supportive treatments and drugs, like plasma therapy, and use of medications like remdesivir.
Of all the available drugs currently held standard to treat the COVID-19 symptoms, remdesivir is being used by healthcare systems around the world to stabilize and support severely affected patients with the novel virus.
Studies are persistent to find the next effective treatment for the virus that has so far affected more than 14 million people globally and counting.
The researchers have found Heparin, a component found in seaweed, which also happens to be a common blood-thinner, to be on par with “remdesivir in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian cells,” when stripped of its anticoagulant properties.
How it works?
The study has been published in the journal Cell Discovery. Wondering how the outstanding discovery works? Well, staring with this research, it is an example of what is called a ‘decoy’ strategy in medical terminology.
In a decoy strategy, a virus is essentially lured to attack a replica molecule called a ‘decoy molecule. usually, a virus-like the SARS-CoVI-2 attacks by latching with a molecule on the surface of the human cell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute explains.
Once the virus has securely latched itself with the molecule, it will inject its own genetic material into the cell, hijacking its resistance and forcing it to replicate into similar viruses.
In case of decoy strategy the virus can be easily fooled to hijack a decoy molecule that offers a similar setup to infect, and “the neutralized virus would be trapped and eventually degrade naturally,” according to the Rensselaer news.
Using the same technique, other viruses were also trapped including dengue, Zica and Influenza A.
“We’re learning how to block viral infection, and that is knowledge we are going to need if we want to rapidly confront pandemics,” lead researcher and a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Jonathan Dordick said.
“The reality is that we don’t have great antivirals. To protect ourselves against future pandemics, we are going to need an arsenal of approaches that we can quickly adapt to emerging viruses.”
The research is still ongoing and the researchers are trying to better comprehend the complicated mechanism in the way the seaweed-extracted compounds work.
Seaweed is an edible algae that is a principal source of protein for ocean life. Extensively used in Japanese and other cuisines like vietnamese, the edible ‘sea vegetable’ is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polysaccharides among others.
The edible seaweed is also a recommended source of protein and other nutrients for vegans. Although, as of now, it is particularly not clear if consuming more seaweeds will directly translate to better protection against the novel coronavirus.
Irrespective of the facet, there’s no harm in including seaweeds in the diet as recommended by nutritionists and dieticians.
NOTE: This article is an interpretation of ongoing research and is no way a prescription against the use of remdesivir and endorsing seaweed. Remdesivir continues to be the most widely used supportive treatment for COVID-19.
Read the full research explanation here.
(Cover image courtesy of sstrieu via Flickr)