Numerous drugs that are already being used to treat different illnesses can prevent SARS-CoV2 infection in cells, latest research identifies.

Academics from the University of Michigan tested more than 1,400 FDA-approved drugs on human cells while they were infected with the coronavirus and once it had gone.

They found that certain diet supplements are amongst 17 drugs that can reduce COVID-19 in human cells.

Out of the drugs, ten were newly found, while seven had already been used for different purposes, the study reports.

Lead researcher Dr Professor Jonathan Sexton said: “Traditionally, the drug development process takes a decade, and we just don’t have a decade.

“The therapies we discovered are well positioned for phase two clinical trials because their safety has already been established.”

The team of scientists studied the SARS-CoV2 infection in a variety of cells, such as the stem-cell.

They discovered that the best drug to kill COVID-19 was lactoferrin, a protein found in human breastmilk, which can also be purchased as a diet supplement made from cow’s milk.

According to the academics, lactoferrin can also prevent new variations of COVID-19 developing in human cells, such as the Delta variant.

However, previous research studies have concluded that other compounds are more effective than lactoferrin for combatting SARS-CoV2 in cells.

Dr Professor Sexton said: “The results seem to be dependent on what cell system is used.

“But there is an emerging consensus around a subset of drugs and those are the ones that have the highest priority for clinical translation.”

He added: “We fully expect that the majority of these won’t work in human beings, but we anticipate there are some that will.”

Dr George A. Mashour, Co-Director of the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research and founder/executive sponsor of the University of Michigan’s Center for Drug Repurposing, said: “Repurposing existing therapeutic interventions in the clinical setting has many advantages that result in significantly less time from discovery to clinical use, including documented safety profiles, reduced regulatory burden, and substantial cost savings.”

The study also revealed that MEK-inhibitors, normally used for people with cancer, could possibly aggravate COVID-19.

“People going in for chemotherapy are at risk already due to a lowered immune response, so we need to investigate whether some of these drugs worsen disease progression,” said Dr Professor Sexton.

The full set of results can now be accessed in journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Science’.

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