Why Do Statins Reduce COVID-19 Risk?
Oct 15 2020 Read 2932 Times
New research from the University of California - San Diego suggests statins, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, could reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. The findings were published in the in American Journal of Cardiology, with the team theorising that statins actively remove cholesterol used by the virus to infect the body and as a result, ease the severity of the disease.
“We found that statins are not only safe but potentially protective against a severe COVID-19 infection," said Daniels. "Statins specifically may inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection through its known anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities as that could potentially stop progression of the virus,” says co-lead author of the study Lori Daniels, MD.
The hunt for effective, FDA-approved treatments
With no current Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications for the novel coronavirus, the race to find a vaccine or an effective treatment for symptoms is fierce. To speed up progress researchers are currently repurposing existing FDA-approved drugs and exploring their potential as treatments for COVID-19. Cholesterol-lowering statins are the latest drug to garner attention from researchers, with the UC San Diego Health linking the medication to less severe symptoms and faster recovery times.
A second study published in the EMBO Journal unravelled the mechanics of the statin effect, with evidence suggesting the drug removes cholesterol from cell membranes which prevents the virus from infiltrating the body. The effect is linked to a molecule called ACE2 located on the outer edges of human cells. While ACE2 helps to regulate and lower blood pressure, researchers also discovered the molecule acts as a receptor for COVID-19 and allows the virus to infiltrate lung cells and trigger severe respiratory infections.
Statin use reduces risk of sever symptoms by 50%
After analysing the medical records of 170 COVID-positive patients and more than 5000 COVID-negative control patients, the team found statin use prior to hospital admission was linked to a 50% reduction in the risk of developing severe symptoms.
“When faced with this novel virus at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of speculation surrounding certain medications that affect ACE2, including statins, and if they may influence COVID-19 risk,” says Daniels, professor and director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at UC San Diego Health. "We needed to confirm whether or not the use of statins has an impact on a person's severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection and determine if it was safe for our patients to continue with their medications.”
Moving forward, the team plan to continue the research in collaboration with the American Heart Association, accelerate clinical trials and ultimately, find an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.
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