Saturday, May 16, 2020
A Real Miracle Drug?
For many years now I’ve been doing an experiment with a drug that seems to have an effect on a coronavirus. No, not that coronavirus. And no, not hydroxychloroquine. Not even remdesivir. Years ago, my dad shared with me an old home remedy to help knock out the common cold. Here’s what you do. As soon as you get that odd feeling in the back of your throat, like you’ve got a cold coming on, start taking aspirin. I’ve tried this for many years now, and I can say with complete confidence that it works—sometimes, and with varying degrees of success.
In fact, I’m doing the experiment again right now. On Wednesday of this week, my wife came down with a sore throat. No fever, just a sore throat. She went in Thursday and got tested for covid-19. The results haven’t come back yet. And on Thursday, I started feeling that slight raw feeling in the back of my throat. No pain yet, just that odd feeling that tells me I’ve got a virus trying to take up residence. So I started taking aspirin. I generally take two regular-strength tablets with each meal, sometimes just breakfast and dinner, but this time I went with two in the morning, one at lunch, and two at dinner. So far, so good.
Long experience has taught me that if this is the common cold, things could go one of three ways. Sometimes the aspirin actually knocks the cold out before it gets its claws set. At other times I still get symptoms, but they are mild and fade away after maybe three days. And then sometimes the aspirin has no effect at all, and I get the full-blown illness—a sore throat that turns into awful sinuses and finally settles in my chest as a nasty cough. But I’d say that at least half the time the aspirin regimen has a definite effect of either preventing the cold or minimizing the symptoms in both severity and duration. Of course, if what we’ve got is covid-19, then we’re in not-quite uncharted waters. More on that in a minute.
I started looking into aspirin and viruses this week, and it turns out there’s actually science to back up my experimental results. Scientists have done experiments with aspirin and have found that it has the ability to inhibit the replication of certain viruses. Here’s a link to one study. The aim of the study is summarized as follows: “Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) has been used for more than 115 years in medicine. Research exists to show that aspirin has antiviral effects in vitro, for example, by blocking influenza virus propagation . . . when used at high concentrations and short-term incubation steps. The aim of this study was to confirm the antiviral activity of aspirin against influenza virus and further elucidate the activity of aspirin against other respiratory viruses.” The results of the study are summarized here: “Aspirin was found to be highly effective against influenza H1N1 virus. The antiviral activity against further respiratory RNA viruses was less distinct. Respiratory syncytial virus was minimally inhibited. However, the activity of aspirin against rhinoviruses was more pronounced. Aspirin demonstrated antiviral activity against all human rhinoviruses (HRV), but the effect on members of the ‘major group’ viruses, namely HRV14 and HRV39, was greater than on those of the ‘minor group’ viruses, namely HRV1A and HRV2.” Again, this was an in vitro (in the test tube) study, but the study’s conclusion states: “These data demonstrate a specific antiviral activity of aspirin against influenza A virus and HRV. The mode of action against rhinoviruses is still unknown and requires further investigation, as does the possibility of aspirin being effective in vivo [in an organism] to treat the common cold.”
So there. I’m not crazy after all. But I’ve wondered why the results of my personal experiments have varied so much. I figure there are two likely reasons. First it probably depends on which virus I’m infected with. There are up to 200 viruses that cause what we commonly call the common cold, among them rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. So, I assume that some of these viruses are more susceptible to aspirin than others. Second, it probably also depends on how early I start taking aspirin. This is all about “load factor.” If I take the aspirin when there is not much virus present, then I can probably buy my body time to produce antibodies to attack the virus. If my body produces enough while I’m suppressing the virus with aspirin, it wins, either really quickly or relatively soon. If the viral load is too heavy, my body probably can’t catch up for a while.
So, does this mean that aspirin may have some positive effect in inhibiting the novel coronavirus that causes covid-19? Well, very likely. Another study (you can find it here) is underway. Results expected in June. It is exploring the potency of aspirin against the novel coronavirus. The researchers are hopeful, however, as evidenced by this summary statement: “The early use of aspirin in covid-19 patients, which has the effects of inhibiting virus replication, anti-platelet aggregation, anti-inflammatory and anti-lung injury, is expected to reduce the incidence of severe and critical patients, shorten the length of hospital duration and reduce the incidence of cardiovascular complications.” Those are pretty optimistic expectations, especially coming from scientists.
So, forget hydroxychloroquine. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.