MANILA – Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has shown potential in treating COVID-19, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) said Wednesday although it cautioned that results of a laboratory experiment were not yet conclusive.
Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology’s research arm, said the antiviral properties of VCO were found to have reduced the amount of virus of up to 90 percent, raising hopes the food supplement could be an effective treatment against the contagious illness.
“I’d like to clarify that even if it works in the laboratory, we still have to see whether it actually works when it is actually given to people infected with the virus,” he told ANC’s “Matters of Fact”.
Based on a months-long experiment led by Dr. Fabian Dayrit of Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU), the derivatives of VCO called monolauric acid disintegrates the cell membrane of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, Montoya said.
“Because we actually tested the actual virus, it destroys it. It destroys the surface that shields them from attackers, from antibodies,” he said.
“If you destroy the coat, first, it's prone to destruction. Number 2, it is not able to enter the cell because it has to have that coat because it carries the receptor or substance that makes it possible for them to enter the cell.”
In a paper published in January on ADMU’s website, the researchers said they were looking into the compounds of VCO as a potential antiviral agent against COVID-19.
“Given the considerable scientific evidence for the antiviral activity of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives and their general safety, and the absence of a cure for nCoV-2019, we urge that clinical studies be conducted among patients who have been infected with nCoV-2019. This treatment is affordable and virtually risk-free, and the potential benefits are enormous,” it said.
The proposed clinical design of Dayrit and his team were control group and standard care (group 1); standard care and VCO (group 2); standard care and monolaurin (group 3); standard care and monocaprin (group 4); and standard care and sodium lauryl sulfate (group 5).
Because of the VCO's antiviral properties, it has been used in other studies such as HIV-AIDS, the paper read.
However, Montoya stressed further research was required to ensure the efficacy of VCO, a readily made available product in the country, as a possible treatment against COVID-19.
“It would be difficult for me to speculate [on] where it’s going to be used [and] how it’s going to be used. The only thing I can say now is it has potential based on initial studies,” he said.
“We still have to wait for the results of the clinical trial because we do not want people to have the impression that we're already saying that it actually works.”
The agency is currently conducting 2 clinical trials of VCO as adjuvant therapy for COVID-19 infection, which has infected 360,000 in the country, with nearly 6,700 fatalities.
The community-based clinical trial in Laguna, which involved 90 asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 cases, is set to be completed by December, while the hospital-based clinical trial in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which involved about 80 patients, will run until the first quarter of 2021.
The PCHRD earlier announced that the virgin coconut oil may become "a means to defeat COVID-19" and results from the ongoing clinical trials would determine whether VCO could be used as supplemental therapy for patients sick with the virus.
While VCO has shown promising antiviral protection against the novel coronavirus, Montoya urged the public “not to depend on it” for now.
“VCO, as it is, is already approved by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as food supplement. So you can actually take it for whatever reason," he said.
"But what we're saying is, you should not depend on it to expect that if you have COVID-19 or maybe you're infected or you're sick, that it will actually cure you of that disease or infection."