Researchers consider non-traditional ways to battle COVID-19

Preventing Infection

Can Ancient Botanical Remedies Help With COVID-19?

“Mushrooms have the advantage that they co-evolved with us. So bacteria, viruses and other fungi prey on mushrooms just like they prey on humans. And mushrooms have developed exquisite defenses against those pests, and we believe they can confer those to us when we eat them.”

Physicians have used bronchoscopes and other hallmarks of traditional Western medicine to examine the upper airway and save lives throughout the global pandemic.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, a group of scientists is looking at whether medicinal mushrooms and Chinese herbs may help in acute cases of COVID-19 and even in toning down the side effects of vaccines and booster shots.

A multicenter study led by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and UCLA, in collaboration with the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, is among the first to study this approach using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, according to Healthcare Hygiene Magazine.

“We hope these treatments will reduce the need for hospitalization,” said Dr. Gordon Saxe, director of research at the Centers for Integrative Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, who is principal investigator of Mushrooms and Chinese Herbs for COVID-19, (MACH-19).

Two of the studies are U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved trials.

The mushrooms were chosen because of their long history of use and known immune-enhancing and anti-viral effects, Saxe told Healthcare Hygiene Magazine.

“Mushrooms have the advantage that they co-evolved with us,” Saxe said. “So bacteria, viruses and other fungi prey on mushrooms just like they prey on humans. And mushrooms have developed exquisite defenses against those pests, and we believe they can confer those to us when we eat them.”

These natural botanicals specifically have a history of helping in pandemics. Herbs have helped Chinese doctors manage 300 recorded epidemics, and the Greek pharmacologist Pedanius Dioscorides prescribed agarikon, one of the mushrooms included in the studies, to treat pulmonary infections 2,300 years ago, Saxe told the magazine.

Vaccines lead to antibody production, and mushrooms may not only increase the number of antibodies but also enhance T-cell immunity against virally infected cells, Saxe says.

As doctors in hospitals around the world have used traditional Western medicine to fight the virus, COVID-19 has also helped make the case for single-use bronchoscopes in treating critically ill patients.

In March 2020, the American Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology (AABIP) recommended that physicians not perform bronchoscopies on patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. If bronchoscopy was warranted during COVID-19 testing or treatment, AABIP said “disposable bronchoscopes should be used first line when available.”

Doctors quickly found ways to perform bronchoscopies safely, using additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking a variety of other precautions.

In the third year of a global pandemic that has claimed more than 6 million lives — nearly 1 million of them in the U.S. —  single-use bronchoscopes and sterile, leak-proof containers for BAL samples remain among the best safeguards when doing bronchoscopy.

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