Researchers from the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) Department of Surgery, have identified a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Working with German researchers, experts from UC found that sphingosine, a lipid known to eliminate respiratory infections, may also be able to prevent viral infections, namely COVID-19.

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“Sphingosine has been shown in past studies to prevent and eliminate bacterial infections of the respiratory tract, but it is unknown if it can be used to prevent viral infections,” Erich Gulbins, visiting professor in UC’s Department of Surgery and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, said in a news release. 

“The coronavirus needs to bind to specific molecules on the surface of human cells as a prerequisite to infect them,” he said.

Researchers tested sphingosine’s effectiveness as a treatment for COVID-19 by treating cultured human cells with the lipid and then infecting those cells with the virus, according to the study.

The results show that the sphingosine was able to prevent infection of SARS CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. None of the other lipids tested were able to achieve the same result.

“These findings indicate that sphingosine prevents at least some viral infection by interfering with the interaction of the virus with its receptor; it could be used as a nasal spray to prevent or treat infections with SARS-CoV-2,” Gulbins said. “More research is needed to see if this could be a treatment for COVID-19.”

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States leads the world with over 7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The current global total is 34.4 million confirmed cases.

UC recently recorded 482 positive cases of COVID-19 among members of the student body, with the majority of those cases concentrated among those living off campus. 

Testing is available by appointment for students who are experiencing symptoms of the virus and for those who have come into close contact with an infected individual.

The university is also conducting random sample testing weekly on students living both on and off-campus.

Students are required to wear face coverings and social distance while on campus. All members of the campus community are required to complete a daily symptom check before coming to campus.

Moderna, a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Mass. has been developing a COVID-19 vaccine since March. The company has said the vaccine could be made available to the general population by spring 2021.

UC’s College of Medicine and UC Health have hosted clinical trials for the Moderna vaccine, administering it to Greater Cincinnati residents.