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‘It’s very exciting’: U of Manitoba research finds fish oil may lower infection risk of coronavirus strain


New research from the University of Manitoba suggests fish oil may lower the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The supplements would be the first non-pharmaceutical approach to fighting the illness.

SARS-CoV-2 is a strain of coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

U of M researchers working at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine and the St. Boniface Albrechtsen Research Centre discovered animals consuming fish oil have fewer anchor points required for entry of the virus into the heart, aorta, and kidneys.

Taking fish oil led to a 50 to 75 per cent reduction of a protein called ACE2, which is found on the surface of some cells.

“The virus comes and binds to it, attaches to it, and that allows it to penetrate into the cells and put its DNA in there, and there it replicates or makes more viruses to infect other cells,” explained Peter Zahradka, a researcher and professor of physiology and pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba.

“So the more ACE2 on the cell surface, the greater number of virus particles that could infect the cells, and of course, the cells are fighting the virus. So the more it has, it overwhelms defences.”

Since the protein acts as an anchor for the virus to attach cells, lowering levels means the cells can't become infected as easily.

This could make fish oil a possible new tool in the fight against COVID-19.

“It's very exciting because it can be used in conjunction with the vaccine. The vaccine is always the best solution, but the vaccines are targeted to specific variants,” Zahradka explained.

“This would be very independent, and it would also help to reduce any chance that people towards the end of their vaccine cycle, they get infected or at least, that's our presumption based on the results.”

He notes more research is needed to verify whether the initial observations also apply to humans, and the potential it has to help fight COVID-19.

The researchers also plan to explore fish oil's effects on long COVID.

“If the COVID virus is still having an effect months later by suppressing the ACE2 protein, it may be able to suppress the ability of long COVID to come back,” he said.

The findings were published on Nov. 10, 2022, in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Top Stories

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