A recent scientific collaboration of the Molecular Virology Lab reveals that a physiological derivative of cholesterol blocks the COVID-19 virus, with important implications for COVID-19 therapy.
The molecule 27-hydroxycholestorol (27OHC) is present in our body as a physiological product of the oxidative metabolism of cholesterol. In cell cultures infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, 27OHC has been found to be a strong inhibitor of viral replication. The relevance of this scientific evidence is further reinforced by the simultaneous observation of a significant decrease of this antiviral molecule in COVID-19 severe patients.
This twofold discovery, published in open access in the scientific journal Redox Biology, is the result of multidisciplinary cooperation by Italian partners. Panoxyvir, an academic spin-off company of the University of Turin coordinated the study, while the ICGEB in Trieste tested the molecule on SARS-CoV‑2 isolated from infected individuals, and the Desio Hospital/University of Milan Bicocca monitored the levels of 27OHC in the blood of individuals who tested positive but asymptomatic for SARS-CoV-2, or who were suffering from moderate to severe COVID-19.
The 27OHC molecule is highly biocompatible, due to its physiological origin, and can inhibit a large variety of harmful viruses, like a broad-spectrum antibiotic against bacteria. It is, thereby, a candidate for rapid, pre-clinical development and clinical trials in humans, and a focus for antiviral strategies that are complementary to vaccines in dealing with current – and future – pandemics.
The ICGEB acknowledges, in particular, the generous contribution from the SNAM Foundation for the work that is performed in the Molecular Virology Laboratory in Trieste.
A. Marcello, et al., The Cholesterol metabolite 27-hydroxycholesterol inhibits SARS-CoV-2 and is markedly decreased in COVID-19 patients, 2020. Redox Biology 36, 101682
A physiological derivative of cholesterol blocks the COVID-19 virus