Melatonin may treat and prevent COVID-19

Melatonin may treat and prevent COVID-19

Written by Timothy Huzar on November 17, 2020 — Fact checked by Rita Ponce, Ph.D.

A new study has highlighted some similarities between other diseases and COVID-19, using this information to help identify drugs that scientists could repurpose as COVID-19 treatments.


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Scientists have published new research that outlines some common pathological mechanisms between COVID-19 and other diseases.

Furthermore, they have used this information to identify some drugs that it may be possible to repurpose as COVID-19 treatments — with melatonin chief among them.

The study, which now appears in the journal PLOS Biology, lays the groundwork for future randomized controlled studies to confirm the initial findings.

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

Repurposed drugs

Although discovering an effective vaccine is crucial in reducing the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists are also researching other medical interventions that may play an important role in bringing it under control.

Finding a treatment that significantly reduces the chance of a person dying if they contract the virus would be a major breakthrough, given that the pandemic has caused over 1.2 million deaths so far.

Much like developing a safe and effective vaccine, however, developing a novel drug to treat COVID-19 is likely to take a considerable amount of time.

As well as identifying an effective molecule to be the basis for the drug, the drug would then need to undergo thorough testing to determine if it would be safe for people across the world to take.

One way around this problem is to turn to previously developed drugs. These have already undergone thorough testing and have approval as having minimal, or at least tolerable, side effects.

If researchers can show a previously developed drug to be effective at treating COVID-19, it may be far quicker to repurpose it for this task. This could potentially save a significant number of lives.

The key challenge is identifying which previously developed drugs are likely to be effective against COVID-19.

In the recent study, the scientists went about this by investigating the mechanisms through which COVID-19 causes harm in the human body. Specifically, they compared these mechanisms with those of several other diseases, looking for similarities.

Identifying these mechanisms is valuable for improving our understanding of how COVID-19 works.

However, it also gives the scientists clues as to which drugs may be effective against COVID-19. If a disease has a similar mechanism of action to COVID-19, it may be that the drugs that treat this disease are also effective against COVID-19.

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