Echinacea Is Effective Against A Variety Of Coronavirus Infections Including SARS-CoV-2

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In this latest study led by Swiss researchers from iC-Cure Scientific-Switzerland along with scientists from  University of Graz-Austria, Universitätsmedizin Berlin-Germany, Italian Ministry of Defence and the Pediatric Clinic-Switzerland, that involved a detailed review and meta-analysis of data from past randomized clinical trials involving the usage of Echinacea, it was found that Echinacea was effective in both preventing and also treating a variety of Coronavirus infections including SARS-CoV-2.

The study review presents the available clinical evidence from randomized, blinded and controlled human studies. Two main RCTs capturing incidence of viral respiratory tract infections during Echinacea preventative treatment were identified including coronavirus infections. Incidence and/or viral loads were measured by RT-PCR and symptom severity was recorded.

In the first study, collected nasopharyngeal swabs from adults (N = 755) over 4 months of continuous prevention. Overall, 24 and 47 enveloped virus infections occurred, including 21 and 33 coronavirus detections (229E; HKU1; OC43) with Echinaforce® extract (2400 mg daily) and placebo, respectively (p = 0.0114). https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/841315/

In the second study, the researchers administered the same extract (1200 mg) or control for 4 months to children (4–12 years) (N = 203). Echinacea reduced the incidence of enveloped virus infections from 47 to 29 (p = 0.0038) whereas 11 and 13 coronavirus detections (229E, OC43, NL63) were counted (p > 0.05).

Respiratory symptoms during coronavirus infections were significantly lower with area-under-curve AUC = 75.8 (+/−50.24) versus 27.1 (+/−21.27) score points (p = 0.0036). Importantly, viral loads in nasal secretions were significantly reduced by 98.5% in the Echinacea group, with Ct-values 31.1 [95% CI 26.3; 35.9] versus 25.0 [95% CI 20.5; 29.5] in the control group (p = 0.0479). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33832544/

Results from clinical studies confirm the antiviral activity found for Echinacea in vitro, embracing enveloped respiratory pathogens and therefore coronaviruses as well. Substantiating results from a new, completed study seem to extrapolate these effects to the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infections. As hypothesized, the established broad antiviral activity of Echinacea extract appears to be inclusive for SARS-CoV-2.

The study findings from the review cum meta-analysis study was published in the peer reviewed journal: Microorganisms https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/10/2/211/htm

Preliminary published clinical results on SARS-CoV-2 may provide even more evidence that Echinacea can be used to combat this particular coronavirus. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05002179

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC7479405/

Echinaforce® as prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections has been investigated in both pre-clinical and clinical studies and its beneficial effects documented [16–19].

Specific mechanism of action is not fully understood but in vitro studies indicate that Echinaforce® inhibits enveloped respiratory viruses including influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or parainfluenza virus, through direct interaction with whole virions and viral envelope proteins [20, 21].

In general, intracellular activity of Echinacea has been observed for some viruses (e.g. influenza and herpes simplex virus) but not others (e.g. RSV), and only at higher concentrations than required for extracellular inactivation.

Furthermore, Echinacea has been shown to interfere with virus mediated cytokine release [22, 23] and since typical symptoms of the common cold, i.e. sneezing, coughing and runny nose, are the results of the stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the reduction of cytokine release might help to ease such symptoms.

In a randomized, double-blind, multi-center, non-inferiority clinical trial Echinaforce® was demonstrated to be non-inferior to Oseltamivir in patients with influenza-like illness, i.e. involvement of the lower respiratory tract (cough) and systemic symptoms (e.g. headache, myalgia, fever), and confirmed influenza infection with a non-significant trend towards lower incidence of complications with Echinaforce Hot Drink® compared to Oseltamivir [17].

The antiviral activity of Echinacea has been investigated in vitro for most of the respiratory viruses associated with common colds and flu, but as of yet, not for coronaviruses. Since HCoV-229E is a typical representative of a coronavirus strain causing a seasonal common cold, we used this virus strain to investigate the general antiviral activity of Echinaforce® against coronaviruses, thereby closing the knowledge gap on the antiviral effects of Echinacea purpurea on typical common cold viruses.

Furthermore, we expanded our analysis to other coronaviruses, i.e. MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, we utilized an organotypic respiratory cell culture system (MucilAir™) of nasal origin to investigate the protective effect of Echinaforce® against HCoV-229E in a culture system that closely mimics in vivo human airway epithelium.

In the current study, we observed an irreversible reduction of the infectivity of four coronaviruses upon direct contact with the extract. Furthermore, a protective effect was observed upon apical pre-treatment in an organotypic airway model.

Additionally, to further test the general virucidal activity of Echinaforce® we treated viruses from other families, both enveloped and non-enveloped, with either RNA or DNA genomes. Due to the observed susceptibility of different CoVs, we expected other enveloped viruses to be inactivated by the extract as well.

However, since non-enveloped viruses are usually more robust and Echinaforce® likely exerts its virucidal activity on the viral membrane directly, we expected such viruses to be more refractory to treatment. Interestingly, while Yellow fever virus, an enveloped RNA virus, was readily inactivated by Echinaforce®, Vaccinia virus, an enveloped DNA virus, was not.

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