Could a common cold virus help fight COVID-19?

Could a common cold virus help fight COVID-19?

  • March 29, 2021

Image of a rhinovirusShare on Pinterest
A recent study asks whether a common virus might help fight COVID-19. Photo edited by Stephen Kelly; Photography courtesy of Thomas Splettstoesser/Wikimedia
  • A lab-based study has found that a virus that causes the common cold can trigger an innate immune response against SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.
  • In theory, infections with the common cold virus could inhibit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among members of a population and reduce the severity of infections.
  • Further research could lead to control strategies or treatments that exploit such interactions between viruses.

For decades, scientists have been hunting for a cure for the common cold, with little success.

However, recent research hints that this bothersome — though usually mild — infection may be a hidden ally in the fight against pandemic viruses such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2.

Human rhinoviruses (HRVs), which cause more than half of all common colds, are the most widespread respiratory viruses in humans.

Previous research suggests that HRVs may have inhibited the spread of the influenza A virus subtype H1N1 across Europe during the 2009 flu pandemic.

Experts believe that the HRVs did this by inducing human cells to produce interferon, which is part of the body’s innate immune defenses against viral infection.

Research has shown that SARS-CoV-2 is susceptible to the effects of interferon.

This finding led scientists at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research in the United Kingdom to speculate whether HRVs could help combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and limit the severity of infections.

To find out, the researchers infected cultures of human respiratory cells in the lab with either SARS-CoV-2, an HRV, or both viruses at the same time.

The cultures closely mimicked the outer layer of cells, called the epithelium, that lines the airways of the lungs.

SARS-CoV-2 steadily multiplied in the cells that the team had infected with this virus alone. However, in cells also infected with HRV, the number of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles declined rapidly until they were undetectable just 48 hours after the initial infection.

In further experiments, the scientists found that HRV suppressed the replication of SARS-CoV-2, regardless of which virus infected the cells first.

Conversely, SARS-CoV-2 had no effect on the growth of HRV.

To test their hunch that HRV was inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 by triggering the cells’ innate immune response, the researchers repeated their experiments in the presence of a molecule that blocks the effects of interferon.

Sure enough, the molecule restored the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to replicate in cells infected with HRV.

“Our research shows that human rhinovirus triggers an innate immune response in human respiratory epithelial cells, which blocks the replication of the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2,” says senior author Prof. Pablo Murcia.

“This means that the immune response caused by mild, common cold virus infections could provide some level of transient protection against SARS-CoV-2, potentially blocking transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and reducing the severity of COVID-19,” Prof. Murcia adds.

The researchers used a mathematical simulation to predict how different numbers of HRV infections of varying lengths might affect the spread of SARS-CoV-2 through a population.

The results showed that the number of new SARS-CoV-2 infections in a population is inversely proportional to the number of HRV infections.

The model predicts that if the common cold virus were to become sufficiently widespread and persistent, it could temporarily prevent SARS-CoV-2 from spreading.

“The next stage will be to study what is happening at the molecular level during these virus-virus interactions to understand more about their impact on disease transmission,” says Prof. Murcia.

“We can then use this knowledge to our advantage, hopefully developing strategies and control measures for COVID-19 infections,” he adds.

The research appears in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

In their paper, the researchers speculate that mild HRV infections might be mutually beneficial for the virus and its human hosts.

They write that the immune system may have evolved to allow HRV to replicate and transmit to new hosts. In return, the virus keeps more severe and potentially lethal viral infections at bay.

At the Science Media Centre in London in the United Kingdom, other scientists welcomed the research but flagged some potential limitations.

Gary McLean, who is a professor in molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University in the U.K., said that the major limitation was that the study involved just one of the 160 or more possible strains of rhinovirus.

He said there was no guarantee that each strain would have the same effect on SARS-CoV-2 infections.

He added that translating results from a lab experiment to real life is “very tricky,” saying:

“Although it is likely that a common cold virus, such as rhinovirus, would induce a strong innate immune response that could block SARS-CoV-2 infections, it would still require both infections to occur at a similar time.”

In addition, he pointed out that intensive infection control measures over the past year have made the common cold less prevalent, reducing the potential for HRV-triggered innate immunity to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.

Children's immune response more effective against COVID-19 -- ScienceDaily

Repurposed heart and flu drugs may help body fight sepsis — ScienceDaily

  • March 27, 2021

Despite continued improvements in antibiotics and hospital intensive care, staph sepsis — a bloodstream infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — still causes severe illness or death in 20 to 30 percent of patients who contract it.

Rather than continue to throw more antibiotics at the problem, University of California San Diego researchers want to boost the other side of the equation: the patient’s own immune system.

The team recently discovered a battle that occurs between staph bacteria and platelets — blood cells known better for their role in clotting than in immune defense. In some sepsis cases, they found, the bacteria win out and platelet levels plummet. Patients with fewer platelets were more likely to die of staph sepsis than patients with higher platelet counts.

The researchers also determined that two currently available prescription medications, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for other uses, protect platelets and improve survival in mouse models of staph sepsis. The two repurposed drugs were ticagrelor (Brilinta), a blood thinner commonly prescribed to prevent heart attack recurrence, and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), prescribed to treat the flu.

The study publishes March 24, 2021 in Science Translational Medicine.

“In many cases, the antibiotics we give these patients should be able to kill the bacteria, based on lab tests, yet a significant number of patients are not pulling through,” said senior author Victor Nizet, MD, Distinguished Professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “If we can reduce mortality in staph sepsis by 10 or 20 percent by arming or protecting the immune system, we can likely save more lives than discovering an additional new antibiotic that may still not cure the sickest patients.”

The study started with a group of 49 University of Wisconsin patients with staph sepsis. The team collected the patients’ blood, bacteria samples, and demographic and health information. To their surprise, it wasn’t white blood cell counts (immune cells) that correlated with patient outcomes — it was the platelet count. Low platelet counts, defined in this case as fewer than 100,000 per mm3 blood, were associated with increased risk of death from staph sepsis. Approximately 31 percent of patients with low platelet counts died from the infection, compared to less than 6 percent of patients with platelets above the threshold.

In laboratory experiments, the researchers worked out what’s likely happening: Platelets secrete antimicrobial peptides that help the immune system destroy staph bacteria. At the same time, staph release an alpha-toxin that’s detrimental to platelets. In addition to poking holes in platelets, the bacteria’s alpha-toxin convinces the blood cells to produce an enzyme that trims off sugar molecules that decorate their own surfaces. The platelet’s new look is recognized by another molecule in the liver called the Ashwell-Morell receptor, which pulls “bald” platelets out of circulation.

Once Nizet and team had an idea of what might be happening in the patients who are less likely to survive staph sepsis, they turned to mouse models of the disease to find ways to tip the balance of what they call the “toxin-platelet-receptor” axis back in favor of the human patient.

The researchers tested several classes of drugs known to be safe in humans and known to act on platelets. Most drugs they tested had no effect, but two drugs made a big difference. Ticagrelor blocks staph’s alpha-toxin so it can’t injure platelets or stimulate its sugar-removing enzyme. Oseltamivir inhibits the platelet sugar-removing enzyme so the cells don’t go bald and aren’t cleared by the liver, even when staph’s alpha-toxin is around.

Mice with staph sepsis and treated with either ticagrelor or oseltamivir maintained more platelets and had less bacteria in their blood. Ultimately, approximately 60 percent of treated mice survived 10 days following infection, compared to 20 percent of untreated mice.

Side effects of these medications may include nausea, diarrhea and nosebleeds, and ticagrelor may cause uncontrollable bleeding. While new clinical trials specifically designed to test the drugs’ safety and efficacy for patients with staph sepsis would be ideal, Nizet said there’s little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do so with an already profitable drug.

Still, repurposing commercially available drugs has many advantages.

“Discovering a new drug is tremendously expensive and takes many, many years,” said Nizet, who is also faculty lead for the Collaborative to Halt Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes (CHARM) at UC San Diego. “But if we look around at what we already have, what we already know to be safe, we may find many opportunities to improve patient outcomes.”

Sepsis can be caused by several types of bacteria in addition to staph, including Streptococcus pyogenes, Klebsiella, E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 1.7 million adults in the U.S. develop sepsis and nearly 270,000 die as a result. One in three patients who die in a hospital has sepsis. And it’s one of the costliest of all diseases — in 2013, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that sepsis management added up to more than $24 billion in hospital expenses, or 13 percent of total U.S. hospital costs.

Respistim Helps the Immune System Fight the Good Fight

  • March 25, 2021

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Muno-Vax’s supplement Respistim is designed to support the immune system, especially during the cold, sickness-prone winter months. The supplement uses a variety of ingredients to provide essential nutrients to the body’s immune system. By taking the supplement for months at a time, customers can help keep their immune systems strong and their bodies healthy.

The Bulgarian-based health and wellness brand Muno-Vax has made a name for itself through its scientifically-backed immune support supplements. These utilize a one-of-a-kind immuno-modulator that acts as an antigen to help to stimulate the immune system. This keeps that all-important line of bodily defense at the ready and on the lookout for any germs, bacteria, viruses, or other invaders that may show up.

Standing tall amongst Muno-Vax’s offerings, Respistim is an immune-supporting complex that is particularly ideal to take during the autumnal and winter periods. The supplement includes the fully recommended daily requirements of vitamins like Vitamin C and Vitamin D as well as minerals and antioxidants — all of which are vital to the proper function of the immune system

The supplement does not have added colors or preservatives, is for adults and children 9 and older, and comes in an easy-to-take tablet form. These should be consumed with a meal and can be split into two half tablets taken in the morning and evening.

Muno-Vax recommends starting to take Respistim at the beginning of the fall and then continuing to do so for at least three months. This allows you to tap into the benefits of supporting your immune system during one of the most dangerous times of the year. While Muno-Vax is still establishing its presence in the North American health and wellness industry, it is worth watching this growing Bulgarian-based company as it continues to build its name as a new player in the industry and a source of well-researched, cutting-edge immunity support supplements.

About Muno-Vax: Muno-Vax is a Bulgarian brand that has made it its mission to fill “a great void in products that promote immune health to prevent respiratory illnesses, gingivitis and men’s prostate health.” The company works in close association with its parent company Natstim Ltd. as well as the biotech manufacturing arm of The National Center of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases.

For more information about Respstim, in particular, visit https://munovax.com/collections/frontpage/products/respistim.

Please direct inquiries to:
Irena Banta
(954) 754-7583
[email protected]

SOURCE Muno-Vax

UC San Diego launches first-of-its-kind clinical trial to see if mushrooms can fight COVID

UC San Diego launches first-of-its-kind clinical trial to see if mushrooms can fight COVID

  • March 25, 2021

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Scientists continue to search for better treatments for COVID-19, and researchers at UC San Diego think one solution might be growing on trees.

They’ve just launched a clinical trial to see if certain mushrooms can help treat the disease in its early stages. The trial, which is enrolling volunteers now, is the first study of its kind authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We think mushrooms may have the ability to reduce the severity of COVID,” said principal investigator Dr. Gordon Saxe. Saxe is a preventive and integrative medicine physician who leads the Krupp Center for Integrative Research at UCSD.

Mushrooms have been used in medicine for thousands of years, notably by the Greeks and Chinese. Studies have shown the fungi have a range of pathogen-fighting and immune-boosting properties.

The first antibiotic, penicillin, was derived from a mushroom.

These medicinal properties are a byproduct of evolution, Saxe said. Mushrooms and other fungi can be infected by viruses and bacteria just like humans, so they developed defenses over time.

“They evolved all kinds of amazing antimicrobial defenses against viruses in particular, and we can benefit from what they have produced. The medicines they contain can get conveyed to us when we ingest them,” he said.

There are about 12,000 known species of mushrooms and Dr. Saxe’s team has honed in on two: turkey tail and agarikon. Both are native to old growth forests in North America. They do not have hallucinogenic properties.

“They are no more psychoactive than the button mushrooms you would put in a stir fry,” Saxe said.

In lab tests, agarikon has shown strong antiviral activity against drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis along with H1N1 (swine flu), H5N1 (bird flu), cowpox and herpes viruses, according to mushroom expert Paul Stamets, a collaborator on the study.

In some experiments, compounds in agarikon were 10 times more potent against flu viruses than the pharmaceutical ribavirin, Stamets said.

Dr. Saxe is now recruiting 132 volunteers recently diagnosed with COVID-19 for the double-blind, controlled study at UCSD and UCLA. Volunteers will take capsules of mushroom powder or a placebo three times a day for up to two weeks. Participants will be compensated $250.

Interested volunteers should email covid19trial@ucsd.edu or call (858) 249-6896.

Other studies are already in the works. Research has shown mushrooms can boost the immune system, particularly helper T cells that orchestrate antibodies. Dr. Saxe is planning to launch a second FDA authorized study as early as May to explore whether taking mushrooms can stimulate a stronger response to the COVID-19 vaccines.

A third COVID study will explore a Chinese herbal formula that has been used in Eastern Medicine for more than two millennia.

“People are realizing that there was wisdom in some of the ancient approaches, but we need to retest these things using modern science,” Dr. Saxe said.

This story was first published by Derek Staahl at KGTV.

Repurposed Heart and Flu Drugs May Help Body Fight Sepsis

Repurposed Heart and Flu Drugs May Help Body Fight Sepsis

  • March 24, 2021

Despite continued improvements in antibiotics and hospital intensive care, staph sepsis — a bloodstream infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — still causes severe illness or death in 20 to 30 percent of patients who contract it.

Rather than continue to throw more antibiotics at the problem, University of California San Diego researchers want to boost the other side of the equation: the patient’s own immune system.

The team recently discovered a battle that occurs between staph bacteria and platelets — blood cells known better for their role in clotting than in immune defense. In some sepsis cases, they found, the bacteria win out and platelet levels plummet. Patients with fewer platelets were more likely to die of staph sepsis than patients with higher platelet counts.

The researchers also determined that two currently available prescription medications, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for other uses, protect platelets and improve survival in mouse models of staph sepsis. The two repurposed drugs were ticagrelor (Brilinta), a blood thinner commonly prescribed to prevent heart attack recurrence, and oseltamivir (Tamiflu), prescribed to treat the flu.

The study is published March 24, 2021 in Science Translational Medicine.

“In many cases, the antibiotics we give these patients should be able to kill the bacteria, based on lab tests, yet a significant number of patients are not pulling through,” said senior author Victor Nizet, MD, Distinguished Professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “If we can reduce mortality in staph sepsis by 10 or 20 percent by arming or protecting the immune system, we can likely save more lives than discovering an additional new antibiotic that may still not cure the sickest patients.”

platelets

Left: Human platelets are destroyed by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (circles). Right: With the addition of blood thinner ticagrelor, human platelets (larger blobs) are protected from injury by Staphylococcus aureus (smaller circles).

The study started with a group of 49 University of Wisconsin patients with staph sepsis. The team collected the patients’ blood, bacteria samples, and demographic and health information. To their surprise, it wasn’t white blood cell counts (immune cells) that correlated with patient outcomes — it was the platelet count. Low platelet counts, defined in this case as fewer than 100,000 per mm3 blood, were associated with increased risk of death from staph sepsis. Approximately 31 percent of patients with low platelet counts died from the infection, compared to less than 6 percent of patients with platelets above the threshold.

In laboratory experiments, the researchers worked out what’s likely happening: Platelets secrete antimicrobial peptides that help the immune system destroy staph bacteria. At the same time, staph release an alpha-toxin that’s detrimental to platelets. In addition to poking holes in platelets, the bacteria’s alpha-toxin convinces the blood cells to produce an enzyme that trims off sugar molecules that decorate their own surfaces. The platelet’s new look is recognized by another molecule in the liver called the Ashwell-Morell receptor, which pulls “bald” platelets out of circulation.

Once Nizet and team had an idea of what might be happening in the patients who are less likely to survive staph sepsis, they turned to mouse models of the disease to find ways to tip the balance of what they call the “toxin-platelet-receptor” axis back in favor of the human patient.

The researchers tested several classes of drugs known to be safe in humans and known to act on platelets. Most drugs they tested had no effect, but two drugs made a big difference. Ticagrelor blocks staph’s alpha-toxin so it can’t injure platelets or stimulate its sugar-removing enzyme. Oseltamivir inhibits the platelet sugar-removing enzyme so the cells don’t go bald and aren’t cleared by the liver, even when staph’s alpha-toxin is around.

Mice with staph sepsis and treated with either ticagrelor or oseltamivir maintained more platelets and had less bacteria in their blood. Ultimately, approximately 60 percent of treated mice survived 10 days following infection, compared to 20 percent of untreated mice.

Side effects of these medications may include nausea, diarrhea and nosebleeds, and ticagrelor may cause uncontrollable bleeding. While new clinical trials specifically designed to test the drugs’ safety and efficacy for patients with staph sepsis would be ideal, Nizet said there’s little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do so with an already profitable drug.

Still, repurposing commercially available drugs has many advantages.

“Discovering a new drug is tremendously expensive and takes many, many years,” said Nizet, who is also faculty lead for the Collaborative to Halt Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes (CHARM) at UC San Diego. “But if we look around at what we already have, what we already know to be safe, we may find many opportunities to improve patient outcomes.”

Sepsis can be caused by several types of bacteria in addition to staph, including Streptococcus pyogenes, Klebsiella, E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 1.7 million adults in the U.S. develop sepsis and nearly 270,000 die as a result. One in three patients who die in a hospital has sepsis. And it’s one of the costliest of all diseases — in 2013, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that sepsis management added up to more than $24 billion in hospital expenses, or 13 percent of total U.S. hospital costs.

Co-authors of the study include: Josh Sun, Satoshi Uchiyama, Joshua Olson, Ingrid Cornax, Nao Ando, Yohei Kohno, May M. T. Kyaw, Bernice Aguilar, Nina M. Haste, George Sakoulas, UC San Diego; Yosuke Morodomi, Sachiko Kanaji, Taisuke Kanaji, Scripps Research; Warren E. Rose, University of Wisconsin; and Jamey D. Marth, UC Santa Barbara and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

Funding for this research came, in part, from the National Institutes of Health (grants HL125352, HL107150, HL131474, AI124326, HD090259, AI13262 and OD017863) and the UC San Diego PharmD/PhD Program.

Disclosure: Warren Rose has received speaking honoraria from Melinta unrelated to the current study. George Sakoulas has consulted for Allergan, Paratek, and Octapharma unrelated to the current study. Victor Nizet has consulted for Cellics Therapeutics, Staurus, Vaxcyte, Clarametyx Biosciences, SNIPR Biome, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Iogen unrelated to the current study.


Why Strengthening Your Immune System Is Highly Important To Fight Covid-19 — Hometown Station | KHTS FM 98.1 & AM 1220 — Santa Clarita Radio

Why Strengthening Your Immune System Is Highly Important To Fight Covid-19 — Hometown Station | KHTS FM 98.1 & AM 1220 — Santa Clarita Radio

  • March 24, 2021

The body’s immune system helps in keeping infections at bay. There are different mechanisms that antibodies undergo to effectively deal with pathogens. Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections need to be quickly dealt with to avoid further complications in the body. The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown this through the documented reports on immunity. Patients with higher immunity are recovering at a relatively more rate.

There are different natural ways to awaken or boost immunity in the body. Adopting healthy lifestyles such as regular workouts and eating healthily has a positive impact. Taking plenty of fruits, vegetables and water make your body get the necessary support it needs in fighting the virus. Vitamin C is one specific vitamin that is recommended for enhancing immunity. Buying the necessary supplements is significant. Why is strengthening the immune systems significant in fighting Covid-19?

Reducing the Chances of Complications

The coronavirus normally attacks the respiratory system. This brings about negative effects on the inner lining of the throat and lungs. It makes infected patients experience issues such as sore throat, conjunctivitis, headaches, loss of smell or taste, and skin rashes. The mild symptoms are fewer, dry coughs, and fatigue.

With underlying medical conditions, the impact is more severe and life-threatening. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart-related diseases tend to be more complicated. The inflammation of the lungs around the alveoli results in a reduction in the intake of oxygen into the blood.

Such gradual swellings result in a gradual reduction of the blood oxygen levels which brings the overall feeling of tiresomeness and headaches. Having the right immunity comes in handy. It makes the body respond well in curbing the impact of the Covid-19. This makes your body strong in dealing with foreign bodies as well as keeping the underlying medical conditions well-balanced.

Reduction of Inflammation

The strengthened immune system is normally effective in making the lungs fight inflammation efficiently. This is what makes breathing more difficult alongside and causes chest pains as well. The administration of the vaccine is aimed at making the SAR-CoV-2 virus less functional. This is a result of the production of the necessary antibodies to counteract the virus.

There are specific pigments that are prescribed to Covid-19 patients. Quercetin is one of the natural pigments from a group of compounds known as flavonoids. Doctors use Quercetin to lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and the pigment is found in vegetables, fruits, grains, wine, and tea. It is impactful in a great way of dealing with inflammation issues. Studies show how it works in reducing markers of inflammation in human cells. These days, quercetin is in the form of supplements.

By taking the right dosage, the product can assist in curbing allergic reactions. This is from its anti-inflammatory properties. It works in doing blockage to enzymes responsible for inflammations as well as suppressing the chemicals such as histamine.

Dealing With the Risk Factors

Several aspects influence the strength of immunity. Health experts show that immunity levels change across different age brackets. This implies that as we come of age the immune system gradually weakens. However, it is possible to make the rate of reduction take place at a slower rate. This includes going for the right diets and exercising often.

Adverse effects of Covid-19 have been linked to having excess weight. This is why many campaigns are being made to get rid of obesity of any order. Sex is also seen to be a factor influencing the impact of the infections.

The strengthened immunity puts you on the safe side in avoiding life-threatening issues. It is necessary to therefore find quercetin as it covers some of the major chronic conditions such as high blood pressure. In the US, studies show that hypertension affects 33% of adults. Often this translates to the risks of heart diseases.

The quercetin supplement is known to make the systolic and diastolic blood pressure values stabilize. It can therefore keep you safe from the condition. However, it is necessary to seek medical advice on the right daily dosage to stick to.

Quick Recovery

Woman cooking

With a boosted immunity, the recovery from Covid-19 will take place at a higher rate. The cycle for the infection will follow the right track alongside reducing the negative implications. It is, however, necessary to keep a good track of the blood oxygen level every day.

Fighting Covid-19 is something we are all looking forward to. Scientists have even come up with vaccines all in the name of finding a solution to the infections. Strong immunity is the only weapon in dealing with the virus. Different benefits come from this such as reduction of the Covid-related complications. Using supplements such as quercetin is essential in reducing inflammation in the lungs.

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Can mushrooms fight COVID? UC San Diego launches first-of-its-kind clinical trial

Can mushrooms fight COVID? UC San Diego launches first-of-its-kind clinical trial

  • March 24, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Scientists continue to search for better treatments for COVID-19, and researchers at UC San Diego think one solution might be growing on trees.

They’ve just launched a clinical trial to see if certain mushrooms can help treat the disease in its early stages. The trial, which is enrolling volunteers now, is the first study of its kind authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We think mushrooms may have the ability to reduce the severity of COVID,” said principal investigator Dr. Gordon Saxe. Saxe is a preventive and integrative medicine physician who leads the Krupp Center for Integrative Research at UCSD.

Mushrooms have been used in medicine for thousands of years, notably by the Greeks and Chinese. Studies have shown the fungi have a range of pathogen-fighting and immune-boosting properties.

The first antibiotic, penicillin, was derived from a mushroom.

These medicinal properties are a byproduct of evolution, Saxe said. Mushrooms and other fungi can be infected by viruses and bacteria just like humans, so they developed defenses over time.

“They evolved all kinds of amazing antimicrobial defenses against viruses in particular, and we can benefit from what they have produced. The medicines they contain can get conveyed to us when we ingest them,” he said.

There are about 12,000 known species of mushrooms and Dr. Saxe’s team has honed in on two: turkey tail and agarikon. Both are native to old growth forests in North America. They do not have hallucinogenic properties.

“They are no more psychoactive than the button mushrooms you would put in a stir fry,” Saxe said.

In lab tests, agarikon has shown strong antiviral activity against drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis along with H1N1 (swine flu), H5N1 (bird flu), cowpox and herpes viruses, according to mushroom expert Paul Stamets, a collaborator on the study.

In some experiments, compounds in agarikon were 10 times more potent against flu viruses than the pharmaceutical ribavirin, Stamets said.

Dr. Saxe is now recruiting 132 volunteers recently diagnosed with COVID-19 for the double-blind, controlled study at UCSD and UCLA. Volunteers will take capsules of mushroom powder or a placebo three times a day for up to two weeks. Participants will be compensated $250.

Interested volunteers should email covid19trial@ucsd.edu or call (858) 249-6896.

Other studies are already in the works. Research has shown mushrooms can boost the immune system, particularly helper T cells that orchestrate antibodies. Dr. Saxe is planning to launch a second FDA authorized study as early as May to explore whether taking mushrooms can stimulate a stronger response to the COVID-19 vaccines.

A third COVID study will explore a Chinese herbal formula that has been used in Eastern Medicine for more than two millennia.

“People are realizing that there was wisdom in some of the ancient approaches, but we need to retest these things using modern science,” Dr. Saxe said.

Nutrition Can Strengthen the Immune System to Fight COVID-19

Nutrition Can Strengthen the Immune System to Fight COVID-19

  • March 12, 2021
  • Obesity, high blood pressure, and type two diabetes may raise the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, research suggests.
  • Eating a whole foods diet and monitoring blood sugar may help maintain metabolic health.
  • Diet and metabolic health can strengthen the immune system to fight COVID-19 and other viral infections.
Kateryna Kon/123RF

Source: Kateryna Kon/123RF

No diet can reduce your risk of catching COVID-19. Viruses can’t reproduce without you, so if they find you, they’re going in. However, we are not passive Petri dishes. The human body is armed with a sophisticated security system for identifying and eliminating intruders of all kinds. Therefore it is largely the health of your immune system that ultimately determines your fate. So, is there a diet that strengthens your immune system?

Some advocates of Mediterranean, vegan, and low-carb lifestyles claim that following their diet of choice can help you fight off COVID-19, but no diet has been scientifically tested against this virus.

Yet even with a grand total of zero dietary studies available thus far, it would be a mistake to conclude that diet doesn’t matter in a pandemic. In fact, a pandemic should motivate all of us to double down on dietary quality, because the majority of people who suffer serious consequences from COVID infections have something in common: poor metabolic health. 

The Link Between Metabolic Health and Severe Cases of COVID-19

A new study of over 900,000 COVID-related hospitalizations in the U.S. confirms that people are at far higher risk for complications and death from this virus if they have obesity, high blood pressure, and/or type two diabetes. 

While these conditions may seem unrelated, often they are simply different tentacles of the same underlying beast: insulin resistance, aka pre-diabetes. The bad news is that at least one-third of American adults have pre-diabetes—and 80% of us don’t know it, because most doctors still don’t test for it.

In people with insulin resistance, insulin levels tend to run too high. The problem with high insulin levels is that insulin is not just a simple blood sugar regulator—it is a master metabolic hormone that orchestrates the behavior of every organ system in the body. High insulin levels shift us into growth and storage mode, making it easy to accumulate excess body fat. Insulin also plays a major role in controlling blood pressure, blood sugar, and the immune system—all three of which are intimately involved in how we respond to COVID-19 infections.

Blood Pressure. People with insulin resistance tend to have abnormally low levels of a cell surface enzyme called ACE-2, which is responsible for lowering blood pressure and protecting lung cells from injury. It just so happens that the only way COVID-19 can gain access to any human cell is by binding to ACE-2 first. Like a secret handshake, this crafty connection tricks the cell into letting its guard down and welcoming the virus inside. Because COVID-19 ties up ACE-2 molecules, people with insulin resistance who are infected with COVID-19 have even fewer ACE-2 enzymes available to keep blood pressure and lung damage under control than they usually do, leaving them more vulnerable to complications (Dalan et al. 2020).

Blood Sugar. Once inside, the virus hijacks the cell’s assembly lines to make copies of itself. It has long been known that respiratory viruses like influenza are particularly vicious in people with type two diabetes, with growing evidence suggesting that higher blood sugar levels encourage viruses to multiply faster (Drucker 2021).

Immune System. This elegant Stanford University study found that the immune systems of people with insulin resistance respond very sluggishly and abnormally to respiratory virus infections compared to metabolically healthy people, typically taking at least seven days to begin mounting a defense.

Dieting Practices to Reduce the Risk of COVID-19

Which diet might help stave off COVID-19? Any diet that keeps blood glucose and insulin levels in a healthy range.

Unfortunately, most popular home remedies believed to help ward off viruses such as orange juice, gummi vitamins, tea with honey, and elderberry syrup do exactly the opposite, because they are all high in sugar, which drives insulin levels up. What can you do instead?

1. Eat a nutritious whole foods diet. A whole food consists of a single ingredient, can be found in nature, and is perishable. Eggs, nuts, salmon, zucchini, steak, and blueberries are all examples of whole foods. Avoid factory foods and refined carbohydrates like sugar, flour, fruit juice, and cereal products that cause unnaturally steep spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.

2. Find out whether you have insulin resistance. Anybody can have insulin resistance—even children, elite athletes, and people who are naturally thin. My post “How to Diagnose, Prevent and Treat Insulin Resistance” includes questions and tests you can use to find out where you stand on the insulin resistance spectrum, and an infographic to help you recognize sources of hidden sugar, boost your metabolism, and make healthier food choices.

3. Monitor your own blood sugar. People with insulin resistance don’t process carbohydrate normally, so blood sugar can run high between meals. Most doctors look for diabetes by testing morning fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C (long-term average blood sugar); they don’t test for pre-diabetes, so your daily blood sugar could be on a dangerous invisible roller coaster without you or your doctor realizing it.

A previous post explains how to easily test your blood sugar at home to analyze your own metabolism. Buy or borrow a simple finger stick blood glucose meter, or wear a continuous glucose monitor (even for a couple of weeks) to observe how your food and beverage choices affect your blood sugar throughout the day. If your glucose ever rises to 140 mg/dl or higher, your current diet is a poor match for your metabolism. Keeping it under 125 mg/dL is an even healthier goal. 

4. If you have insulin resistance, take action. If eating a whole foods diet doesn’t control your blood sugar well enough, consider lowering its carbohydrate content. In human clinical studies, low-carbohydrate diets have the best track record of lowering blood sugar, treating type two diabetes and helping people reduce their diabetes medications:

“Reducing overall carbohydrate intake for individuals with diabetes has demonstrated the most evidence for improving glycemia [blood sugar]” (Evert et al. 2019). 

Low-carbohydrate diets can also lower blood pressure and help people lose weight.

Carbohydrate restriction is safe for almost everyone, but do not start a low-carbohydrate diet without learning more and discussing it with your doctor first, especially if you take prescription medications, have health problems, or are currently ill with COVID-19 or any other infection. The good news is that Mediterranean, paleo, vegan, and vegetarian diets can all be modified to be lower in carbohydrate, so you can tailor this approach to your personal dietary preferences.

You can take meaningful action to invest in your overall health and bolster your defenses not only against serious COVID-19 disease, but against other viruses as well—including those lurking around the corner which we have yet to meet. 

Children's immune response more effective against COVID-19 -- ScienceDaily

Results could lead to better drugs used to fight inflammation — ScienceDaily

  • March 4, 2021

At the beginning of an immune response, a molecule known to mobilize immune cells into the bloodstream, where they home in on infection sites, rapidly shifts position, a new study shows. Researchers say this indirectly amplifies the attack on foreign microbes or the body’s own tissues.

Past studies had shown that the immune system regulates the concentration of the molecule, sphingosine 1 phosphate (S1P), in order to draw cells to the right locations. The targeted cells have proteins on their surface that are sensitive to levels of this molecule, enabling them to follow the molecule’s “trail,” researchers say. S1P concentration gradients, for instance, can guide immune T cells to either stay in lymph nodes, connected glands in which these cells mature, or move into blood vessels.

For the first time, researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine showed in mice experiments that S1P levels in lymph nodes increase as the immune response mounts. Such activation of immune cells can cause inflammation, swelling, and/or death of targeted cells.

While past work had shown that S1P is produced by cells attached to lymph nodes, the new study found that monocytes, circulating immune cells, also produced it when mice were infected with a virus. This in turn may influence the migration of T cells, a set of white blood cells that expands rapidly in response to infection, say the study authors.

Publishing in the journal Nature online March 3, study results showed that T cells left mouse lymph nodes less than half as fast when S1P levels rose, while mostly immature cells escaped when S1P levels were not spiking.

“Our research shows a larger role for sphingosine 1 phosphate in coordinating immune defenses in response to infection and inflammation,” says study lead investigator Audrey Baeyens, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone and its Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine. “While further testing is needed, our findings raise the prospect of controlling levels of S1P to either boost or diminish the body’s immune response, as needed.”

Moreover, the researchers found that when lymph node levels of S1P went up, it signaled T cells to remain in lymph nodes. Such “trapped” T cells, with longer time to mature and become fully armed in the node, increase in their toxicity. These mature T cells can attack cells infected by viruses, or healthy cells as part of autoimmune diseases.

Indeed, medications that block S1P, preventing immune cells from leaving the lymph nodes, are used to curb unwanted and autoimmune inflammation related to inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis, a disease for which fingolimod (Gilenya) is one of the few approved treatments.

Researchers say their findings could also explain why multiple sclerosis patients can experience severe disease relapse immediately after ceasing fingolimod treatment, as T cells held long in lymph nodes are then freed to attack the body’s nerves, a key trait of the disease.

“Now that we have a better understanding of sphingosine 1 phosphate inhibition, we can work on finding new uses for this class of medications, perhaps by manipulating the time T cells spend in the lymph nodes,” says study senior investigator Susan Schwab, PhD. Schwab is an associate professor in the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone and Skirball.

For the study, S1P levels were measured in mice bred to develop symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a disease involving severe inflammation of the brain and spine. They also measured S1P levels in mice exposed to viral genetic material to mimic the inflammation that occurs in infection.

Schwab says the team next plans to study how different S1P levels affect T cell maturation, and how these different maturation times strengthen or weaken the overall immune response to infection.

An Immune System Boost Can Help Your Body Fight COVID – WCCO

An Immune System Boost Can Help Your Body Fight COVID – WCCO

  • March 4, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Infectious disease experts say if you’re getting vaccinated, it can’t hurt to boost your immune system beforehand.

Having a strong immune system will also help your body fight COVID-19 more effectively if contracted.

READ MORE: ‘I Still Can’t Believe People Think This Is Fake’: 8 Months On, Minnesota Man Still Recovering From COVID Bout

Mary Giarusso, a 71-year-old resident of Big Lake, says she started a regimen of vitamins for the first time toward the start of the pandemic. She recently took a blood test to detect any nutrient deficiencies.

“[I took it] because of COVID, and I’m going to be traveling next week, so I wanted to make sure my immune system … is still in good working order,” Giarusso said.

The food we eat plays a big role in our immunity, according to licensed nutritionist Jesse Haas, owner of Wellness Minneapolis.

“In terms of boosting our immune system and helping us prevent illness, we have the power in our pantry,” Haas said.

(credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Haas says Vitamin D is important for immunity. She recommends mushrooms, liver and supplements. For Vitamin C, you can look beyond citrus. Haas says bell peppers and broccoli are a good source. Zinc is tougher to find, but oysters can do the trick.

READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: MDH Says State Has Seen 14 ‘Vaccine Breakthrough Cases’

Alex Lamkin, owner of Any Lab Test Now in Plymouth, administered Giarusso’s nutrient test.

“A lot of times you’re deficient in the areas that you have no clue about,” Lamkin said.

He says patients are most commonly lacking Vitamins D and B12.

But immunity is about more than just diet, according to Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease physician at Allina Health’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

“Getting sleep, exercising, not being overweight is going to help people in every single way that health can be measured,” Rhame said.

MORE NEWS: Clarifying COVID: What Do We Need To Know About The J&J Vaccine?

Haas also said the vitamins found in a drug store are called “supplements” for a reason. They’re not a substitute for a balanced diet.

capsimmunesystem.org