Coronavirus vaccines are in various stages of development around the world but many people may have to wait for a long time before getting a vaccine shot. Meanwhile, researchers are looking for other ways to prevent people from getting the SARS-CoV-2 caused disease and it looks like there are a few things that could be helpful.
According to a new study by the North Carolina State University researchers, chemical compounds in foods or beverages, such as green tea, dark chocolate and muscadine grapes can bind to and block the function of a particular enzyme, or proteases—important to the health and viability of cells and viruses—in the novel Coronavirus. As per the findings, if the proteases are inhibited, cells cannot perform functions like replication.
The study's corresponding author De-Yu Xie, who is the professor of plant and microbial biology at North Carolina State University, said: "One of our lab's focuses is to find nutraceuticals in food or medicinal plants that inhibit either how a virus attaches to human cells or the propagation of a virus in human cells."
The Study Findings
The researchers conducted computer simulations and lab studies to find out how the so-called "main protease" in the novel Coronavirus which causes COVID-19 reacted when confronted with different plant chemical compounds which are known for their potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
They found that the main protease in SARS-CoV-2 is required for the virus to replicate and assemble itself. As per Xie, "If we can inhibit or deactivate this protease, the virus will die."
From the computer simulation, it was found that chemical compounds from green tea, two different types of muscadine grapes, cacao powder and dark chocolate were able to bind different portions of the main protease or Mpro. Xie noted that "Mpro has a portion that is like a 'pocket' that was 'filled' by the chemical compounds. When this pocket was filled, the protease lost its important function."
In the in vitro lab experiments, the results were similar. The researchers noticed that the chemical compounds in both green tea and muscadine grapes were very successful in restraining Mpro's function, while cacao powder and dark chocolate successfully reduce the main protease activity almost by half.
As explained by the lead author of the study, green tea includes five tested chemical compounds that bind to different sites in the pocket on the main protease, "essentially overwhelming it to inhibit its function." In the case of muscadine grapes, it contains these inhibitory chemicals in their skins and seeds.
An expert in the field of natural health Ann Jack, who was not involved in the study, said that the findings of the new study "is very promising", and added that this is a very inexpensive way to protect the health.
Green tea or any of these ingredients involved in the North Carolina State University study were not claimed to be the cure for the COVID-19 but their chemical compounds could help people to protect from the virus.
According to Jack, who has 30 years of experience in the field of the natural health field, since the pandemic hit the world, especially the US, many people have been searching for natural immunity boosting options. Even though there is no guarantee that these elements will provide 100 percent protection from SARS-CoV-2, healthcare experts said that the research is promising.
"I'm a big tea drinker, so I'd be willing to try anything to stay healthy, and I know green tea has so many health benefits. So I really don't doubt it," added Jack.