Fruit and vegetable compounds to slow down the coronavirus?

Could natural chemical compounds found in certain fruits and vegetables – polyphenols with antioxidant properties – slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19?

This is the question that Normand Mousseau and Roger Gaudreault, respectively professor and visiting researcher in the Department of Physics at the Université de Montréal, are examining in a fundamental research project they have just set up.

Supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, this inter-university study is being conducted in collaboration with Professors Charles Ramassamy of the Centre Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Theo van de Ven of McGill University, Steve Bourgault of UQAM, Kokou Adjallé of the Water, Land and Environment Centre of INRS, and the company Fruitomed.


Viruses are strands of RNA wrapped in a pocket of lipids – fats – that protect them from their environment,” explains Normand Mousseau. These pockets are bristling with proteins that allow them to cling to the membrane of cells to inject their RNA, which then takes control of the infected cell to multiply and contaminate the host.”

The researchers’ hypothesis is that reducing the coronavirus’ ability to attach to cells will help limit its progression.


To do this, they will test the power of polyphenols to inhibit interactions between SARS-CoV-2 proteins and receptors on the surface of cells in humans.

“Since scientific evidence tends to show that SARS-CoV-2 enters the nervous system to affect the brain, we also want to study the preventive effect of polyphenols on the action of SARS-CoV-2 proteins on the respiratory center,” continues Mousseau.

Towards a new understanding of the “modus operandi” of the coronavirus

This theoretical and experimental research aims to better understand how SARS-CoV-2 behaves with the cells it infects.

To address this challenge as quickly as possible, the researchers are taking a multidisciplinary approach that relies on both molecular modeling and experimental methods of visualizing polyphenol-protein complexes in real time “to further our understanding of physicochemical interactions between proteins and polyphenols.

The results of this work will later be complemented by studies on biological models, namely dorsal root ganglia of the brain respiratory center.

The results of this study will allow us to acquire new knowledge about the harmful effects of SARS-CoV-2 on respiratory problems and to identify natural molecules with protective potential,” concludes Normand Mousseau. These results will open multiple perspectives for the study of neuroinvasive mechanisms as well as for the development of treatments against SARS-CoV-2.”

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