Health

Early-stage research suggests a milk protein combined with Benadryl may help fight COVID-19

Researchers may be in the early stages of discovering an effective strategy for inhibiting the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the results of a recent study.

The results of the findings from David A. Ostrov, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, were published in Pathogens in late November.

The report suggested that combining diphenhydramine — an antihistamine sold as Benadryl that is used for allergy symptoms — and lactoferrin — a protein found in cow and human milk — reduced replication of SARS-CoV-2 by 99% in lab tests on human lung and monkey cells.

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"We found out why certain drugs are active against the virus that causes COVID-19," Ostrov told the University of Florida Health Newsroom. "Then, we found an antiviral combination that can be effective, economical and has a long history of safety."

Key to the research team’s findings was the focus on sigma receptors, which are proteins expressed in human cells. COVID-19 "hijacks" the body’s stress-response machinery, including these receptors, so it can replicate inside its host. Interfering with that process is key to inhibiting the virus’s potency, according to the researchers.

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"We know the detailed mechanism of how certain drugs inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection," Ostrov said.

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The research, however, is preliminary, and Ostrov has cautioned against self-medicating with either diphenhydramine or lactoferrin for COVID-19 prevention. Lactoferrin is available commercially to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers but differs slightly from the type used in the experiment, Ostrov said.

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