Science & Technology

Montreal researchers propose a treatment for COVID-19

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11. As of press time, the coronavirus had rapidly spread to more than 175,000 people in 162 countries and caused nearly 7,000 deaths. 

Doctors Michel Chrétien and Majambu Mbikay, senior researchers at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), have proposed the use of a plant-based compound called quercetin to treat COVID-19. Clinical trials to test its effectiveness are scheduled to start in China within the next few weeks.

Chrétien and Mbikay say that quercetin, which some research suggests can protect against the Ebola and Zika viruses, may be able to treat the coronavirus. Working with Chinese health officials, they will supervise clinical trials for testing the drug on patients in China. They will use the drug produced by the Swiss company Quercegen Pharmaceuticals, which, according to Chrétien, produces the purest available quercetin. The trials will last around four months.

Present in many fruits, vegetables, seeds, leaves, and grains, quercetin is a compound that originates from flavonoid plants. It is non-toxic for humans and can be purchased over the counter as a dietary supplement.  

Chrétien and Mbikay’s interest in quercetin started in the 1990s, when they screened for mutations in gene PCSK9, a master regulator of cholesterol in circulation. They realized that children with less functional PCSK9 are less susceptible to malaria, which motivated them to look for a natural oral compound to inhibit PCSK9 functioning.

“We were looking for the compound […] that could be ingested and inhibit PCSK9 and cause a decrease [in] blood cholesterol,” Mbikay said. “What we observed is that [quercetin] was a very potent inhibitor of PCSK9. In other words, it could lower cholesterol.”

They then investigated quercetin’s inhibiting effects on parasites, bacteria, and viruses, especially after the outbreaks of the SARS-CoV and Ebola viruses in 2003 and 2018, respectively. These investigations unravelled the pivotal role of quercetin not only as an anti-metabolic compound through affecting PCSK9 and lowering cholesterol but also as a potential antiviral agent that targets the entry process of viruses.

During the last decade, research by Chrétien, Mbikay, and colleagues has suggested that quercetin can protect mice from Ebola and Zika viruses. After the recent COVID-19 outbreak, they proposed quercetin to Chinese health officials as a potential wide-spectrum antiviral drug.

“A cell has a lock, and the virus has a key [to enter and infect the cell],” Chrétien said “But quercetin puts glue in the lock.”

As of Feb. 15, China planned to run more than 80 clinical trials to treat COVID-19, testing a variety of potential remedies, such as HIV drugs, stem cells, and traditional Chinese medicines. Chrétien explained that quercetin has three advantages over other candidate treatments: It is taken orally; it is a natural, plant-based product; and it is relatively cheap. 

“[Quercetin] costs peanuts compared to the antivirals that are on the market, which cost sometimes $1000 [per] shot,” Chrétien said. “Two months ago, you could have a one day treatment [of over-the-counter quercetin] for two dollars.”

On March 4, the Lazaridis Family Foundation contributed $1 million to support this project. Chrétien says that this suffices for the first one or two months of the project but estimates that they will need $5–6 million per year. 

“We are asking our government to give us money to guide the Chinese,” Chrétien said. “I think our government will gain a lot […] not only on the health of people, but [in] their relationship with China.”

However, the world must wait four months to know whether quercetin cures or prevents COVID-19. 

“The worst thing in medical science is to give false hope,” Chrétien said.

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  1. Arvind Pradhan

    Why can’t Canada start a trial right here too? Quercetin works well to minimize effects of many viruses including Herpes Simplex 2.

  2. Viktoria Aleksandrova

    I agree with the above comment. We have enough infected people to start the trials here. In any case, quercetin will not hurt anyone because it’s like a food supplement. These scientists need to return to Canada and take care of people here.

  3. Use it for rhinitus and ubiquinol. Love em, I see both of them are promising.

  4. Dominique Godin

    Ok, interesting! Quercetin is an alimentary supplement that is already accessible everywhere a supplement,
    that tomorrow anyone could go to the store and start healing his self with it. The problem with research is that you discover something and before confirming things it normally takes years to be confirmed to people, during that time people dye because the result is too long to arrive. If It just takes Quercetin to neutralized the covid-19 why doctors and scientific peoples are not right now telling peoples how to take the Quercetin to have the proper result? Quercetin is not something that is dangerous to take and after that, you could take all the time you need to terminate your study in detail, The people who gone a be on Quercetin will give you result that will help your study.

  5. Don’t wait for the trials, just eat more quercitin-rich foods like cilantro, radicchio, and oregano.

  6. Yes, 4 months is a lifetime. If you already have it and it is proven safe to ingest, what is the holdup?!

  7. Steven Johnson

    Please update this story and let us know the progress on the study / trials. This querectin seems to have the some mechanism of inhibiting the virus as chloroquin.

  8. Bertrand Lemieux

    Does the Chrétien study use a molecular diagnostic test to evaluate SARS-CoV-2 viral load as a means of detecting efficacy? Didier Raoult has used that approach to evaluate hydroxychloroquine. In addition, does Dr. Chrétien plan to look into the efficiency of Quercetin as part of a chemoprophylactic for SARS-CoV-2 using a molecular test to detect the presence of the virus?

  9. jawkneefive

    If you eat healthy, you already get copious amounts of this. Don’t pay for vitamins, they are mostly useless. Eat lots of spinach, broccoli, blueberries, green tea, onions. Easy.

    • Dr. Robert Aldoroty

      That’s not true. See Medcram youtube video on Quercetin. The video suggests greater benefits at higher dosages than from a good diet of quercetin rich foods: 500mg twice a day with 25mg zinc twice a day. Quercetin, like Hydroxychloroquine is an ionophore: Quercetin helps zinc enter cells and kill the virus and thus, reduces symptoms (but is not a vaccine). There’s no way anyone could get 1 gram a day from eating Quercetin rich foods. Green Tea is also a zinc ionophore. Any study of Quercetin, Hydroxychloroquine or other ionophore treatment that doesn’t include 50mg of zinc per day is a weak study. The author of this article didn’t mention that Quercetin failed in stage 3 testing (1000 to 3000 people) when used against SARS. And no mention if they included zinc or not.

    • Actually that is not accurate. Even with a rich diet in fruits and veggies, at best you get just a fraction of what you need. I take 1000mg for allergy symptoms and definitely feel a difference. As for the study that Dr Chretien is focused on, it is a different more bioavailable part of the compound, which is not in the over the counter supplement. Having said that, I am definitely continuing with this supplement.

    • Actually that is not accurate. Even with a rich diet in fruits and veggies, at best you get just a fraction of what you need. I take 1000mg for allergy symptoms and definitely feel a difference. As for the study that Dr Chretien is focused on, it is a different more bioavailable part of the compound, which is not in the over the counter supplement. Having said that, I am definitely continuing with this supplement regardless!

  10. Ancient Soul

    I don’t care nor do I have the privilege of time to wait around & see what they find out. It’s natural, safe, and is one of the strongest immune system supports available.
    And at only around $60 for half a pound of the stuff online, it’s dirt cheap for the recommended dose of 500mg-1g/day.

    Thanks for the article.

  11. Louise Dionne

    Il est impératif d’utiliser tous les moyens disponible afin de s’assurer que ledit produit cause plus de gain que de perte, toutes situations médicales interactives.
    Alors il est préférable de foncé plutôt que de stagner. Le virus n’attend pas le bon vouloir des chercheurs

  12. Follow up to this story would be nice

  13. helena lines

    I am wondering if there is an update on the clinical trials in China?

  14. Gary Dunn

    The Giant Pink Elephant in the room are the deal with the Asymptomatics? What’s are the factors that contribute to the 50% being so robust and resistant? Diet? Zinc intake? The intake of the all natural and safe Quercetin and other flavonoids that act like the side effects causing synthetic Chloroquinine? I have gone head to up my onion and zinc intake at the recommended levels.No harm in that.

    • Good combination. Quercetin is a polyphenol that is an effective zinc ionophone. It increases ionized zincs entry into cells, and zinc inhibits activity of the RNA polymerase needed for viral replication.

  15. Would love a follow up on this Reasearch using Quercetin for covid-19. I am concerned that this Reasearch will get lost, due to big pharmaceutical companies wanting to make a patented product that they can control.
    Please, everyone on this blog keep your eyes on this Reasearch.
    If you do a follow up please let me know!
    [email protected]

  16. Jamal Brudnicki

    Have to add vitamin c ,I suggest ester-c 1000 mg.
    It works for 24hrs. Vitamin c (helps absorb the quercetin).
    If u can’t afford ester c ,regular vitamin c will work.
    Make sure you take the vitamin c 2 to 3 times throughout the day.
    Quercetin vitamin c and zinc, be sure to not ingest too much zinc. I personally recommend buying a mg scale from Walmart online.
    The zinc and vitamin c alone will not do the job.
    Needs a zinc ionophore, it basically opens doorways for zinc (Zn) to get in the blood plasma
    to push out the virus. Since zinc is an ion.
    Quercetin is also a zinc chelator, if you have too much zinc in the body.
    I am not a doctor.
    Always consult with your primary care provider.
    Or do what you gotta do.
    God bless you in Jesus’ Name.

  17. Please, give us some update about those clinical tests for Quercetine. It has been a while.
    Thank you

  18. Unfortunately, nobody is going to put money into researching natural substance that costs pennies to buy. They want a drug or vaccine that they can charge billions for.

  19. Michael Bischof

    The key problem with quercetine is the fact that it is nearly not bioavailable. Does not dissolve in water, even when heated up to 95°C. The next problem is that compounds like quercetine combined with some sugar (quercetine-glycosides) perform different or do not perform at all.

  20. Ann Kilpatrick

    Quercetin is a zinc ionophore, ie. delivers zinc into the virus to disable it.
    AOR in Calgary has a lab grade quercetin that is highly absorbable.
    I feel that taking any high-grade type from a reputable company will help. You’d have to eat a whole lot of food sources to get what is in on capsule. Bromelain helps make it more absorbable.
    New Roots
    Natural Factors

  21. Why we don’t hear any more on this quercetin trials/test anymore

  22. Marcia Daley

    Quercetin easy to obtain naturally in your kitchen. Boil the brown outer leaves of your onions – drink the water or put in soups & stews. Remove (like bay leaves) before consuming….. the don’t blend either . Costs you nothing

  23. Why don’t we hear about the results of these clinical trials, I don’t know. It has been at least 2 months and 1/2 now.

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