“Sphingosine has been shown in past studies to prevent and eliminate bacterial infections of the respiratory tract, but it is unknown if it can be used to prevent viral infections. The coronavirus needs to bind to specific molecules on the surface of human cells as a prerequisite to infect them,” Gulbins says. “This is similar to the key and lock principle of a door: To open the door you must insert the key into the lock. We show that the lipid sphingosine binds into the cellular ‘lock,’ the receptor ACE2, for SARS-CoV-2 and thereby prevents binding of the virus to and infection of human cells.”
Researchers in this study analyzed the use of this lipid in regulating infection in cultured human cells with SARS-CoV-2 particles added.
“We showed that sphingosine prevented cellular infection in these cultures, and pretreatment of cultured cells or freshly obtained human nasal epithelial cells with low concentrations of sphingosine prevented adhesion of and infection with the virus,” says Gulbins.
“These findings indicate that sphingosine prevents at least some viral infection by interfering with the interaction of the virus with its receptor; it could be used as a nasal spray to prevent or treat infections with SARS-CoV-2,” he adds. “The nasal spray must be developed, but sphingosine is a natural product. More research is needed to see if this could be a treatment for COVID-19.”