Phase 3 trial of supplement proposed, new diagnostic tool to be validated.
By Gillian Rutherford
University of Alberta researchers have identified an amino acid that may play a key role in predicting poor clinical outcomes and the treatment of Long Covid.
In research published today in Cell Reports Medicine, the team says it has developed a predictive test to determine which patients with COVID-19 will go on to develop longer-term symptoms and proposes a clinical trial of an already-approved supplement as a potential treatment.
In the study, the team followed 117 Alberta patients who were admitted to hospital with acute COVID-19, taking blood samples upon admission and at six months, and examining their clinical records for 18 months. Fifty-five of the patients went on to develop severe post-COVID condition, or long COVID, with three or more longer-term symptoms.
Researchers analyzed the patients’ blood for changes in proteins and metabolites, as well as signs of inflammation.
Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid found in meat and fish and also produced by the human liver. It helps regulate several physiological functions including the immune system.
Further study of the impact of taurine supplementation in humans is needed, says Oudit, but existing small studies show no harmful side-effects and suggest there may be positive effects such as lowered blood pressure, improved cognition and gastrointestinal benefits.
Patients should not go out and start consuming taurine in high levels to help with long COVID,” he says. “Taurine supplements are relatively safe, but we need to get that evidence from a clinical trial.Principal investigator Gavin Oudit
Dr Charles Shepherd, Honorary Medical Adviser comments:
Taurine is a type of chemical known as an amino sulfonic acid. It occurs naturally in the body and is present in foods such as meat, fish and eggs.
At a cellular level taurine is involved in energy production – where it could obviously be relevant to improving energy production in Long Covid and ME/CFS.
Claims have been made that commercial taurine supplements can be used to treat heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes – as well as fatigue. However, there is very little scientific evidence from well conducted clinical trials to support any of these claims.
Taurine supplements, at a recommended dose, appear to be safe but they can interfere with some prescribed drugs.
While the results from this Canadian research, which has found decreased levels of taurine in some people with Long Covid, are clearly interesting they have to be regarded as very preliminary.
And it is impossible to then go on and conclude that taurine supplementation is going to be an effective treatment for Long Covid (or even ME/CFS).
This would require evidence on safety and efficacy from well-controlled clinical trials where a taurine supplement is compared to a placebo/dummy pill – which the research group recognise and propose to do.
My gut feeling is that taurine supplement is not going to be a simple solution to treating Long Covid.
Dr Charles Shepherd
Trustee and Hon. Medical Adviser. The ME Association.