In the absence of available medicine against the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is set to have two clinical trials to check the efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as health supplement against Covid-19.
Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said the trials will be hospital- and community-based.
PGH clinical trial
The hospital-based trial will be held starting on April 8 at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).
The study titled, “Virgin Coconut Oil and Omega-3a Adjunctive Therapy for Hospitalized Patients with Covid 19,” will be led by Dr. Marissa Alejandria.
De la Peña said the VCO will serve as a “supplement to the daily treatment regimen” of the Covid-19 positive patients.
He told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview that a minimum of 40 patients will participate in the trial taking VCO and another 40 as control without VCO for a minimum of one month.
He added that the P4.9-million DOST-funded test at PGH will assess the possible benefits of VCO to patients with moderate to severe Covid-19 in addition to the drugs being assessed in the clinical trials.
The research will be done in cooperation with the DOST and the UP-PGH Clinical Covid-19 Research Group and the Metro Manila Health Research and Development Consortium of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).
On the other hand, the community-based trial will be for the Covid-19 persons under investigation (PUIs).
It will be conducted at isolation facilities in a community and a hospital in Region 4A starting in a few days. It will be done in collaboration with DOST Calabarzon and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
De la Peña said the trial will have 40 with VCO participants and 40 control without VCO participants both for the hospital and community trials. The trials’s P7-million budget will be funded by the DOST and the PCA.
The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) will lead the community-based study. It will incorporate VCO in the food provided to the PUIs.
The study aims to assess the possible benefits of VCO to patients with Covid-19 as well as contacts and other high-risk groups.
The project team is planning to conduct the same study in their previous intervention studies and the dietary supplementation may possibly run for at least four weeks. The study will be done in cooperation with the DOST-PCHRD and the PCA.
De la Peña acknowledged Professor Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit of Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) as having proposed the clinical trials because of the known wide usage of VCO against viral and bacterial diseases.
In parallel with VCO lab test
The clinical trials are being done in parallel with another DOST-funded research, the in-vitro or laboratory-based study being done by AdMU, led by Dayrit, in coordination with the Duke-National University of Singapore.
Dayrit earlier told the BusinessMirror that the result of the laboratory test may be available in two months.
In a research paper he cowrote and was released in January, Dayrit said coconut oil and its components—lauric acid and monolaurin—“have been shown to be safe and effective antiviral compounds in both humans and animals.”
Because of the antiviral and antibacterial protection that it provides to animals, coconut oil is used in farm animals and pets as veterinary feed supplements in chicken, swine and dogs.
Monolaurin has been shown to effectively protect chicken against avian influenza virus, the research said.
They also cited that monolaurin was found to be highly active against repeated high viral loads of Simian immunodeficiency virus in macaques.
Likewise, a 35-percent gel of monolaurin was developed for application in the female genital tract to protect against HIV.
At the same time, they said, “coconut oil itself has been shown to have anti-HIV properties in small clinical studies.”
These VCO laboratory and clinical trials are part of the projects and researches of DOST to attend to the concerns against Covid-19.
Among the other projects are the manufacturing of face shields for medical frontliners and RxBox biomedical device.