Plant-derived drug effective at blocking COVID-19’s Delta variant

NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to drag on, continually reinvigorated every few months by the emergence of yet another variant. While each new variant is a major global health concern, the Delta variant in particular has emerged as a particularly nasty and infectious version of SARS-CoV-2. On a positive note, scientists report a newly discovered plant-based antiviral drug is quite effective against all COVID-19 variants, even Delta.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham report that just a single pre-infection dose of thapsigargin (TG) effectively blocks all single-variant infections and every co-infection at greater than 95 percent effectiveness. Even in the case of an active COVID-19 infection, the study finds TG can largely inhibit every COVID-19 variant.

This project also assessed the infectiousness of each COVID-19 variant, concluding Delta displays the greatest ability to multiply within cells and the most efficiency when it comes to spreading to neighboring cells. Even when combined with another variant within a “co-infection,” Delta provided a boost to the multiplication of its co-infected partners. This refers to when more than one variant of COVID-19 infects a patient’s cells at the same time.

“Our new study has given us better insights into the dominance of the Delta variant. Even though we have shown that this variant is clearly the most infectious and promotes production of other variants in co-infections, we are pleased to have shown that TG is just as effective against all of them,” says lead study author Professor Kin Chow Chang in a university release. “Together, these results point to the antiviral potential of TG as a post-exposure prophylactic and an active therapeutic agent.”

Delta is the most dangerous COVID around

The scientists authoring this study are the same team who recently discovered TG. At that time, they discovered that in small doses TG can initiate a “highly effective broad-spectrum host-centered antiviral innate immune response” against various respiratory viruses known to infect people – including SARS-CoV-2.

This latest study builds off that initial work, investigating and comparing how efficiently the Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants are able to multiply within host cells, both as a sole variant and as co-infections.

Study authors conclude the Delta variant is by far the most infectious version of COVID to date. For example, Delta’s amplification rate 24 hours post-infection is more than four times higher than the Alpha variant and nine times more than the Beta variant.

The findings appear in the journal Virulence.

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