Researchers have reported that the antiviral compound, piperlongumine, can be used in the treatment of COVID-19.
The researchers found that piperlongumine, a compound extracted from the long pepper, has a potent antiviral effect in the treatment of COVID-19 in mice. Piperlongumine is the most extensively used natural ingredient in the Indian healthcare system. According to the researchers, piperlongumine can be broadly applied to treat different variants of the COVID-19 virus.
The study was led by Gonçalo Bernardes, group leader at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes and Professor at the University of Cambridge. The full findings of the study have been published in the scientific journal ACS Central Science.
The compound could work against future variants
“We found that piperlongumine delays disease progression and reduces lung inflammation in a mouse model mimicking COVID-19 infection”, said Bernardes.
“The action of this compound in the organism, which was previously studied in the treatment of cancer, is the induction of a stress response in the host cells. In our work, we saw that this stress response is selective for infected cells. This is quite advantageous because piperlongumine acts on the cells infected by the virus and not on the virus itself, making it a potential antiviral treatment that can be efficient in upcoming variants of COVID-19 or even different viruses, to fight future outbreaks”, explained Bernardes.
The researchers used a mouse model to test piperlongumine as a treatment. The mice were infected with alpha, delta, and omicron variants of COVID-19. They found that the treatment was effective in decreasing the amount of virus in all three variants.
The researchers compared the effect of piperlongumine against Plitidepsin, an antiviral component which administered subcutaneously and is already known to reduce viral load in COVID-19 infection. The researchers did this to assess the relevance of the compound as a potential treatment.
Piperlongumine is more effective than existing treatments
“In the case of piperlongumine we were able to administer it intranasally, which was suggested as a better route because the nasal mucosa is frequently the primary site of infection in COVID-19. We demonstrated that piperlongumine intranasal administration is not toxic and the treatment is more effective in the infected mice relative to Plitidepsin, a potent antiviral that is currently being tested in human clinical trials”, said Cong Tang, first author of the study.
While the discovery of vaccines has contributed significantly to the control of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still important to find and develop new treatments as the virus continues to adapt to the new human host over time.
Piperlongumine is especially relevant as an antiviral compound since as it exerts its antiviral action by affecting the host cells, instead of the virus. This makes piperlongumine an ideal candidate to be used against future variants of COVID-19 and even other viruses.