Israeli Researchers: Pumpkins and Peas Are ‘Healthy Weapon’ Against COVID-19

People in Gaza city walking past a mural depicting the COVID-19 coronavirus. Gaza, Oct 5, 2020. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS
By TPS • 11 April, 2022

Jerusalem, 11 April, 2022 (TPS) — Safe dietary supplements developed at Tel Aviv University can help protect the body against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and a range of winter illnesses. The dietary supplements consist of substances found in fruits and vegetables such as cashew, pumpkin, peas, and beetroot, and are considered safe.

The study was led by Prof. Ehud Gazit, Prof. Eran Bacharach, and Prof. Daniel Segal of the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research at the Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, TAU, together with Ph.D. students Topaz Kreiser and David Zaguri and other researchers.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, humanity has led an “arms race” against the virus’ mutations, variants, and extensive contagion, in an effort to minimize damage to human life and the economy. The battle against the virus relies mainly on RNA-based vaccines, alongside several anti-viral medications. However, the Covid virus changes rapidly, and frequent updates are required to treatments and vaccines that are based on familiarizing the immune system with the virus.

The same is true for flu viruses, another widespread cause of illness and death.

Prof. Gazit said that “to address the rapid changes of the virus, we decided to develop active vaccines made of safe and easily obtainable dietary supplements that would reduce the viral load in the body and cut down contagion. We have known for years that food supplements containing zinc can enhance immunity to severe, viral, and chronic infections and their potentially grave consequences.”

The researchers found that the consumption of zinc alone achieves a relatively low and less effective cellular content. To enhance the effect, they combined zinc with flavonoids – polyphenolic compounds found in many fruits and vegetables. They also added copper – in order to prevent an ionic imbalance and improve the treatment’s effectiveness.

Prof. Segal explained that “advanced lab tests have shown that the new vaccines we developed did in fact reduce the viral load. We found a 50-95% decrease in the genomic replication of various groups of RNA viruses, including Covid-19, the flu virus, and others. These results are very promising, possibly enabling the development of an orally administered biological shelf treatment.”

“Such a product will be safe, natural, and effective against several types of viruses, including new mutations and variants – clearly an important step forward,” he added.

So far, all experiments were conducted in vitro in the lab, but the researchers are optimistic as to the study’s practical potential. They hope to launch a series of clinical trials in humans, ultimately leading to an effective treatment accessible to everyone.

Since the supplements are verified as safe for use, and in the light of the global pandemic, it was decided to promote the product to the general market before the results of the clinical trials.

Prof. Bacharach concluded by saying that “we are all taught from a young age that good medicine includes preventive medicine. The product which we hope to offer will cover a wide range of winter illnesses, including Covid and the flu. We believe that the product can serve as a supplementary treatment to enhance the effect of existing anti-viral vaccines and medications.”

Ramot, TAU’s Technology Transfer Company, is leading advanced negotiations with an American company to receive a permit for marketing and distributing the product.

“We see a great potential to a natural off-the-shelf product, available for everyone, innovative and promising, which provides protection against Covid-19, as well as other viral infections,” said Keren Primor, Ramot CEO.

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