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Kentucky university studying to see if tobacco plant could play role in fighting COVID-19

Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 8:01 PM EDT
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The University of Louisville is doing research on the tobacco plant, and it could be a game changer in the fight against COVID-1, WAVE

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Researchers at the University of Louisville Regional Biocontainment Lab are exploring the possibility of a preventative product that involves tobacco. For the past few years, it has been looking into an engineered tobacco-produced protein, called Q-Griffithsin, a broad-spectrum antiviral.

“We’ve been testing it in a phase one clinical trial for preventing HIV transmission, but we know from work that we did some years ago that it also has very good activity against coronaviruses,” said Dr. Kenneth Palmer, from UofL’s Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

WAVE reported that the research team received samples of COVID-19 last month and have been researching the therapeutic candidates against COVID-19 in cell cultures.

The tobacco the team is researching is grown in a controlled pharmaceutical facility in Owensboro.

The goal is that they will produce a product that would be used as a preventative measure in the form of a nasal spray. It could be a major breakthrough, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

Palmer said he’s hoping to get the funding to get in a clinical trial later this year.

“We’re very hopeful we will provide one way to help protect people (from) coronavirus infections, and hopefully we will make a difference,” Palmer said.

This all has to go through the hurdles of formal approval that does take some time. Palmer said he believes COVID-19 will be a problem for several years. This preventative measure could help curb cases, along with lead to a vaccine, Palmer said.

Copyright 2020 WVLT News via WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.