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Sulforaphane may be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of coronavirus infections.

Sulforaphane is a bioactive compound derived from certain cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli (especially broccoli sprouts) and red kale. Robust evidence from epidemiological, clinical, rodent, and in vitro studies indicates that sulforaphane exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Findings from a recent study suggest that sulforaphane is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of coronavirus infections.

Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause illness in birds and mammals, including humans. Members of this group include SARS-CoV-1 (which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS), MERS-CoV (which causes Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS), SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19), and HCoV-OC43 (which causes the common cold), as well as others.

The investigators conducted a two-part study involving cultured cells and mice. First, they exposed the cells to sulforaphane for one to two hours and then infected them with SARS-CoV-2 and HCoV-OC43. They also assessed the effects of sulforaphane on previously infected cells. They found that sulforaphane roughly halved the replication of the two viruses in both scenarios. Then they repeated the experiment, but they added remdesivir, an antiviral medication commonly used to treat COVID-19, to the sulforaphane and found that the compounds worked in a synergistic fashion to potently reduce viral replication.

Next, they gave mice sulforaphane prior to infecting them with SARS-CoV-2 and gauged the compound’s effects. They found that sulforaphane decreased viral replication in the animals' lungs by 1.5 orders of magnitude – a 30-fold reduction – compared to infected mice that didn’t receive sulforaphane. The mice that received sulforaphane also exhibited less lung inflammation, one of the hallmarks of COVID-19 and a driver of poor disease outcomes.

These findings demonstrate that sulforaphane may be beneficial for preventing or treating COVID-19 while modulating inflammation that typically accompanies the illness. Learn about other strategies that reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in this episode featuring Dr. Roger Seheult.

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