A generic drug may help reduce COVID-19 infection, a new international study suggests. Laboratory studies show that a readily available drug, called fenofibrate, reduces SARS-CoV-2 infection in human cells by up to 70%.
This drug regulates cholesterol levels and also affects the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2.
The new research involved scientists from Keele University and the University of Birmingham, both in the United Kingdom, and the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan. They found that a drug that people generally used to regulate cholesterol levels could also be effective against all the SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The study findings will appear in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Fenofibrate was developed by scientists in the 1980s and doctors prescribed it to control cholesterol levels. However, after the development of fenofibrate, researchers discovered statins, which have the added benefit of reducing the risk of heart disease.
Around 30 million people globally use statins. However, those who cannot tolerate statins still take fenofibrate.
In the recent laboratory experiments, the scientists found that fenofibrate destabilized the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 and inhibited binding to ACE2 human cells, through which the virus enters the cells.
Overall research findings state that fenofibrate is can help to fight against the Alpha and Beta variants of SARS-CoV-2. Now, the team is investigating its effectiveness against the Delta variant.
“Because the drug affects multiple targets, not just the spike protein, it will be harder for resistance to develop, so new variants should not be able to escape the effect,” Co-corresponding study author Dr. Alan Richardson said.