Coconut oil has been widely marketed as a superfood that provides a range of health benefits – from improving heart health to boosting brain function. Now, researchers from Singapore and the Philippines are exploring its potential use as a treatment for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency over COVID-19, with thousands of confirmed cases. Originating in Wuhan, China, the deadly disease has continued to spread across several countries, including South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.
Fabian Dayrit, professor emeritus from Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, recently raised the possibility of using coconut oil as a natural and safe antiviral agent against the new coronavirus strain (SARS-CoV-2).
“Several researchers have been designing drugs to specifically target protease enzymes in coronavirus, but testing for these drugs is many months away,” said Dayrit and co-author Mary Newport of Spring Hill Neonatology, Inc. in their paper. “What if there is a treatment candidate against the coronavirus that might already be available and whose safety is already established?”
Dayrit and Newport’s paper proposed three mechanisms to explain why lauric acid (C12) and monolaurin, its derivative, harbor potent antiviral properties. They claim that previous research has shown that both lauric acid and monolaurin contribute to the disintegration of the virus membrane, inhibit the maturation of the virus, and prevent the binding of the viral proteins to the host cell membrane.
The researchers noted that coconut oil and its derivatives are safe and effective antiviral compounds that can be used on both humans and animals. In fact, because of the antiviral and antibacterial protection these compounds provide to animals, they are often used as veterinary feed supplements for chickens, swine and dogs. Monolaurin, in particular, has been shown to be effective at protecting chickens against the avian influenza virus.
The paper recommends that clinical studies should be conducted to compare the effects of coconut oil derivatives on patients infected with COVID-19.
“Given the considerable scientific evidence for the antiviral activity of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives and their general safety, and the absence of a cure for [COVID-19], we urge that clinical studies be conducted among patients who have been infected with [COVID-19],” the paper read.
“This treatment is affordable and virtually risk-free, and the potential benefits are enormous.” (Related: Coronavirus infections EXPLODE in South Korea as spread accelerates across Iran, Lebanon and Israel.)
In light of the Ateneo proposal, Philippine Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced that the National University of Singapore has agreed to test samples of virgin coconut oil (VCO) to determine its efficacy against the SARS-CoV-2 viral strain.
“… a leading proponent – an academician in one of our top universities – is spearheading this initiative and the National University of Singapore has accepted to test VCO against COVID-19,” Nograles said in a press briefing on Monday, February 24. “We are now preparing sending [sic] samples of VCO for testing within the week.”
However, Nograles said that the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) is leading a government-wide effort to monitor, identify and contain all potential COVID-19 cases in the Philippines and he hopes that they maintain success in preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus locally.
In response to Nograles’ statements, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III claims that they are also looking into the beneficial effects of VCO. However, while they have heard of reputable studies regarding the efficacy of VCO, they will not use it to treat COVID-19 infections in the Philippines until the WHO confirms its antiviral effects.
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