A substance in edible marine algae — or seaweed — is capable of blocking COVID-19 from infecting the cells, a new study reveals. Researchers at Tel Aviv University say “ulvan” may provide scientists with a new weapon in the fight to end the pandemic.
The team adds that this seaweed extract is an affordable and natural material which can solve the problem of limited vaccine access in certain countries. Research into ulvan is still in the early stages, but study authors are hopeful their discovery will lead to a new drug that can stop new COVID variants from spreading.
“It is already clear today that the coronavirus vaccine alone, despite its effectiveness, will not be able to prevent the global spread of the pandemic. As long as the lack of access to vaccines remains unaddressed for billions of people in underprivileged communities, the virus is expected to develop increasingly more variants, which may be resistant to vaccines – and the war against the virus will continue,” says Prof. Alexander Golberg from the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences in a university release.
“It is very important to find affordable and accessible solutions to suit even economically weak populations in developing countries. With this aim, our lab tested a substance that could be extracted from a common seaweed. Ulvan is extracted from marine algae called Ulva, an edible ‘sea lettuce’ common in places like Japan, New Zealand and Hawaii,” Golberg adds.