The diabetes treatment that can fight COVID

Scientists at the University of South Australia have demonstrated that a gas normally used to treat foot ulcers in diabetic patients can also be used to kill the COVID-19 virus in air conditioners.

The researchers made the surprising discovery during an experiment to find effective treatments for diabetic foot ulcers. The ulcers can be chronic, extremely painful and are notoriously antibiotic-resistant. Surgery is often the only way to remove them.

The study was completed by scientists from the University of South Australia, Lancaster University, the University of Bath, GAMA Healthcare and its research and development subsidiary AGA Nanotech. The specific treatment being examined was a cold plasma ionised gas enhanced with peracetic acid to eradicate bacteria.

In simpler terms, a cold plasma gas is a gas made from ions, which are atoms and molecules containing an electric charge. Peracetic acid is a colourless liquid sometimes used as a corrosive agent, but also used as an antibacterial solution to kill microbes. The peracetic acid was introduced to the cold plasma gas in small droplets called acetyl donor molecules (ADMs).

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The combination proved effective in treating the wounds, but what the team also found was surprising.

“By combining cold plasma gas with acetyl donor molecules … we found it completely killed bacteria that are found in chronic wounds,” says lead researcher Dr Endre Szili.

“We then investigated whether this same technology could be effective at killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it appears that it is.

“We showed that we could achieve an 84 per cent reduction in viral load using plasma combined with acetyl donor molecules based on a standard dosage that is safe for human cells. However, it is highly possible with some modifications that we could eradicate it completely.”

Read: Two new drugs could turn the COVID tide

The news is welcome, especially as Australia enters its new post-lockdown era. COVID will be circulating at much greater rates and a variety of treatments for the virus will be needed.

If you’re unlucky enough to need hospitalisation with COVID, the standard treatments so far have been the antiviral drug remdesivir and the corticosteroid dexamethasone. Both need to be administered intravenously.

As a result, neither drug is available over the counter and options for home COVID treatments have been limited.

Last month, US pharmaceutical giant Merck published findings that showed its COVID pill molnupiravir could cut hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 in half.

Read: Leprosy drug holds promise as at-home COVID treatment

“More tools and treatments are urgently needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said in a statement.

“With these compelling results, we are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic and will add to Merck’s unique legacy of bringing forward breakthroughs in infectious diseases when they are needed most.”

Are you worried about catching COVID in post-lockdown Australia? Or are you confident your vaccinations will hold up? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer