Seaweed extract shows ability to prevent COVID-19 infection


TEL AVIV, Israel – A substance in edible seaweed – or seaweed – is able to stop COVID-19 from infecting cells, a new study reveals. Researchers at Tel Aviv University say the “ulvan” could provide scientists with a new weapon in the fight to end the pandemic.

The team adds that this seaweed extract is an affordable and natural material that may solve the problem of limited access to vaccines in some countries. Ulvan research is still in its early stages, but the study’s authors hope their discovery will lead to a new drug that can prevent the spread of new COVID variants.

“It is already clear today that the coronavirus vaccine alone, despite its effectiveness, will not be able to prevent the global spread of the pandemic. As long as the lack of access to vaccines remains unanswered for billions of people in disadvantaged communities, the virus is expected to develop more and more variants, which may be resistant to vaccines – and the war against the virus will continue, ” said Professor Alexander. Golberg from the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences in an academic publication.

“It is very important to find affordable and accessible solutions to suit even the economically weak populations in developing countries. For this purpose, our laboratory tested a substance that could be extracted from a common algae. Ulvan is extracted from seaweed called Ulva, an edible ‘sea lettuce’ common in places like Japan, New Zealand and Hawaii, ”Golberg adds.

Ulvan has a strong history with other viruses

Golberg’s team began to view ulvan as a defense against COVID after previous studies found that the seaweed extract could effectively prevent viruses from killing plants. It can even block infection with some human viruses.

TAU researchers started by extracting the ulvan from Ulva algae and sending it to the Southern Research Institute in Alabama. A team from the Infectious Diseases Lab created a lab model to examine cells exposed to the coronavirus.

The results show that in the presence of ulvan, the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not infect cells. Other seaweed extracts have not shown the same ability to block coronavirus infection. The next step will be to see if scientists can come up with a formula that works in real human patients.

“The substance was produced in its raw state, which means it is a mixture of many natural substances, and we have to find out which one is responsible for preventing cell infections. After that, we will have to examine how, if at all, it works in humans, ”the study authors conclude.

The study is published in the journal PairJ.


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