A leading Filipino scientist has espoused the antiviral properties of coconut oil and encouraged more clinical trials studying its possible efficacy in combating the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Dr. Fabian Dayrit, Professor Emeritus at the Ateneo de Manila University and President of the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines, discussed various scientific studies that show the antiviral properties of coconut oil and its derivatives during the second Acts of Magis: Ateneans at the Forefront of a Pandemic webinar held last Friday, May 15.
“Coconut oil is not a high-tech cure like drugs and vaccines, but it brings out the power of simple solutions and it has the science to back it up,” Dayrit said.
He said there are many scientific studies that have shown the efficacy of coconut oil and its derivatives in killing various types of viruses.
“Coconut oil becomes antiviral and antibacterial after hydrolysis with the lipase enzyme. The antibacterial and antiviral compounds include monolaurin and lauric acid as well as other compounds from coconut oil called monocaprin and capric acid,” Dayrit explained.
Last month, the Department of Science and Technology said it will be conducting clinical studies on how virgin coconut oil can be used as treatment for COVID-19 patients.
Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the DOST will be partnering with the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to conduct “hospital-based and community based” studies on the antiviral properties of VCO.
In studies he presented during the webinar, Dayrit showed two mechanisms by which coconut oil derivatives can destroy viruses.
First is through the disintegration of the protective lipid membrane of the virus and the second is through the inhibition of virus maturation or the growth and spread of the virus inside its host.
Dayrit zeroed in on the first mechanism and explained that in many studies in the past, coconut oil derivatives have been successfully shown to destroy the outer layer of enveloped DNA or RNA viruses such as vesicular stomatitis virus, herpes simplex virus, and the junin virus.
He underscored the fact that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is a member of the betacoronavirus group, one of the four groups within the coronavirus family. This is important because lipid membrane disintegration or the destruction of the virus’ outer layer is a mechanism by which viruses that belong to the betacoronavirus group can be effectively destroyed.
In another study cited by Dayrit, lauric acid has shown that it interferes with the expression and assembly of the viral proteins, resulting in the inhibition of virus replication and stopping its spread.
“What we need to determine is how effective [coconut oil] is against this virus itself and curing the disease—COVID-19—as therapy or as prophylaxis. And in particular what the best dosage is and what the most effective modes of intake are,” Dayrit said.