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Experimental cancer drug may boost Covid immune response, study finds

Researchers say the antiviral triggers ‘highly effective’ immune response to string of respiratory diseases

An experimental cancer drug derived from a poisonous plant could be used to boost the body’s natural immune response to Covid-19, new research suggests. 

The antiviral, called thapsigargin, is being trialled as a treatment for prostate cancer patients. But scientists at the University of Nottingham believe the drug, derived from a Mediterranean weed that is highly toxic to sheep and cattle, may also be used to fight the coronavirus. 

In what the team describe as a “ground-breaking study”, small doses of the antiviral were found to trigger a “highly effective” immune response against three types of human respiratory viruses including Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid.

Study leader Professor Kin-Chow Chang said that the “hugely significant” findings “strongly indicate” that “thapsigargin and its derivatives are promising antiviral treatments against Covid and influenza” - and also “have the potential to defend us against the next Disease X pandemic”.

“A new generation of antivirals, such as thapsigargin, could play a key role in the control and treatment of important viral infections in both humans and animals,” he added.

Chang admits that more testing is “clearly needed”, with the Daily Mail noting that “no evidence exists that it will work on humans”.

However, the research conducted so far has found that thapsigargin is “effective at blocking symptoms when used before or during active infection in petri dish tests and on mice”, the newspaper reports.

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