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Seaweed extract found in sushi may protect against COVID-19

July 28, 2020
Researchers have found that a seaweed extract found in sushi holds promise in treating COVID-19. The compound, RPI-27, may even be used as a preventive for the virus in the future.

In the race to discover a vaccine for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, scientists are making headway day by day. An article recently published in the open-access international journal Cell Discovery explains the outcome of a breakthrough in vitro study from researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.1 In lab cell tests, sulfated polysaccharides—specifically RPI-27—were nearly 10 times as effective as remdesivir at inhibiting COVID-19.1

RPI-27, the most potent compound studied, is an extract found in seaweed and of the same type found in some sushi. Scientists discovered that the polysaccharide binds to the spike protein on the virus, thus preventing it from binding with a human cell.2 

To date, the World Health Organization reports that the COVID-19 virus has infected more than 16 million people and caused nearly 650,000 deaths.3

With the characteristics demonstrated in the lab, RPI-27 would appear to help patients recover from COVID-19 faster than remdesivir and require lower dosages for treatment. In the future, RPI-27 may have the potential to be used as a preventive measure against incidences of COVID-19, perhaps as a component of nasal spray and/or an addition to an existing drug.2

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  1. Kwon PS, Oh H, Kwon SJ, et al. Sulfated polysaccharides effectively inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Cell Discov. 2020;6(50). doi:10.1038/s41421-020-00192-8
  2. Peters A. This seaweed extract outperforms COVID-19 drug remdesevir in the lab. Fast Company. July 27, 2020. Accessed July 28, 2020. https://www.fastcompany.com/90532822/this-seaweed-extract-outperforms-covid-drug-remdesivir-in-the-lab
  3. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation report — 189. World Health Organization. July 27, 2020. Accessed July 28, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200727-covid-19-sitrep-189.pdf?sfvrsn=b93a6913_2

Vicki Cheeseman is an associate editor in Endeavor Business Media's Dental Group. She edits for Dental EconomicsRDH, Perio-Implant AdvisoryDentistryIQ, and Through the Loupes.