Icelandic Boffins Find Use For Waste Fish As Covid Cure

Story ByMichael Leidig, Sub EditorJoseph GolderAgencyCentral European News

Icelandic scientists who have spent almost 40 years trying to find a way to use leftover fish remains believe they may be an effective treatment for the coronavirus.

The country, which is one of the world’s biggest fishing nations, had apparently developed a mouth spray made from fish remains as a cure for the common cold. But it is now been tested against the coronavirus by scientists in America.

Results from initial testing show that the spray, already on the market under the name PreCold, can also deactivate about 98.3 percent of the virus that causes COVID-19.

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If the results of clinical trials are replicated out in the field, Iceland will have plenty of raw material to work with from which to extract the Cod enzymes.

Fishing is currently the country’s single most important industry, overtaking even tourism and directly employing around 9,000 people collecting up to 1.4 million tonnes of fish annually. But previously the parts of the fish that cannot be eaten were regarded as waste.

However, one of the substances formerly considered worthless is trypsin, an enzyme that digests proteins.

Agusta Gudmundsdottir, a Professor of Food Chemistry at the University of Iceland who has been exploring the microbicidal effects of trypsin from cod on bacteria and viruses, has carried out research that has made what was previously waste in some cases now worth more than the edible parts of the fish.

The discovery of the use as a treatment for the coronavirus was made during the process of trying the effectiveness of other medicines normally used for other conditions as a possible cure for COVID-19 infections.

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And the initial findings have been more than encouraging for the spray, which is usually sold to people when they first have symptoms of a cold.

The spray works by creating a protective film in the user’s pharynx, where the virus that causes the cold tends to be localised before replicating. The protective film that the spray lays down includes the enzymes extracted from cod offal which scientists have now found also weakens the virus, making it harder for it to replicate.

Icelandic scientists like Gudmundsdottir have been working for almost 40 years to try and find a use for waste cod that is one of the byproducts of cod processing.

A biotechnology company, Zymetech, was set up with this aim in mind and in 1999 produced its first waste cod product – a skin cream called Penzim that was billed as being able to tackle dry skin or delicate skin.

It was later merged seven years later with the Swedish research company Enzymatica which sells PreCold as an antiviral spray under the brand name ColdZyme.

The spray’s effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 was confirmed after testing by Microbac Laboratories in the US which sent Enzymatica’s stock price up by two thirds.

The experts say that the testing now needs to move outside of the laboratory to see if it can also reduce symptoms in people infected.

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