Cholesterol increases Covid-19 infectivity: Study

Prashasti Awasthi | | Updated on: Jan 30, 2021
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It showed that dietary supplements and compounds — vitamin D and possibly vitamins K and A — could bind to the viral spike protein, reducing SARS-CoV-2 infectivity

A new study carried out by the University of Bristol added to the growing body of evidence that vitamin D — and possibly vitamins K and A — might help in preventing Covid-19 infection.

The study, published in the journal of the German Chemical Society Angewandte Chemie, has demonstrated that these dietary supplements and compounds could bind to the viral spike protein, reducing SARS-CoV-2 infectivity.

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In contrast, cholesterol may increase the infectivity. This also explains why people with cholesterol-related issues run the risk of developing a serious disease.

The team first studied the effects of linoleic acid on the spike, using computational simulations to show that it stabilises the closed form.

Further simulations showed that dexamethasone, which is an effective treatment for Covid-19, might also bind to this site and help reduce viral infectivity, in addition to its effects on the human immune system.

The team then conducted simulations to see which other compounds bind to the fatty acid site.

Their findings suggested several drug candidates among available pharmaceuticals and dietary components, including some that have been found to slow SARS-CoV-2 reproduction in the laboratory. These have the potential to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and may help prevent cell entry.

The simulations also predicted that the fat-soluble vitamins D, K and A bind to the spike, in the same way, making the spike less able to infect cells.

Dr Deborah Shoemark, Senior Research Associate (Biomolecular Modelling) in the School of Biochemistry, who modelled the spike, explained: “Our findings help explain how some vitamins may play a more direct role in combating Covid-19 than their conventional support of the human immune system.”

She added: “Obesity is a major risk factor for severe Covid-19. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and tends to accumulate in fatty tissue. This can lower the amount of vitamin D available to obese individuals. Countries in which some of these vitamin deficiencies are more common have also suffered badly during the course of the pandemic.”

“Our research suggests that some essential vitamins and fatty acids, including linoleic acid, may contribute to impeding the spike/ACE2 interaction. Deficiency in any one of these may make it easier for the virus to infect,” she further stated.

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Pre-existing high cholesterol levels have been associated with increased risk of severe Covid-19, and these simulations indicate that it could bind, but that it may have a destabilising effect on the spike’s locked conformation, and favour the open, more infective conformation, the researchers noted.

Published on January 30, 2021

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