Researchers at UC San Diego think one solution to combat the effects of Covid-19 might be growing in the wild. They have launched a clinical trial to see if certain mushrooms can help treat the disease in its early stages. The trial is the first study of its kind authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
Principal investigator Dr. Gordon Saxe: “We think mushrooms may have the ability to reduce the severity of COVID.” Saxe is a preventive and integrative medicine physician who leads the Krupp Center for Integrative Research at UCSD.
Of course, mushrooms have been used in medicine for thousands of years, notably by the Greeks and Chinese. Studies have shown the fungi have a range of pathogen-fighting and immune-boosting properties. Penicillin, the first antibiotic, was derived from a mushroom in 1928.
There are about 12,000 known species of mushrooms and Dr. Saxe’s team has honed in on two: turkey tail and agarikon, both native to old growth forests in North America.
In lab tests, agarikon has shown strong antiviral activity against drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis along with H1N1 (swine flu), H5N1 (bird flu), cowpox and herpes viruses, according to mushroom expert Paul Stamets, a collaborator on the study.
Dr. Saxe is now recruiting 132 volunteers recently diagnosed with Covid for the double-blind, controlled study at UCSD and UCLA. Volunteers will take capsules of mushroom powder or a placebo three times a day for up to two weeks.
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