Liver drug may prevent and lower severity of COVID 19 infection

Researchers have found in a new study that Liver drug ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) may prevent and lower severity of COVID 19 infection.Ursodeoxycholic acid inhibits the farnesoid X receptor and may decrease SARS-CoV-2 infections and reduce the severity of COVID-19.

The researchers found that in participants with cirrhosis, UDCA exposure was associated with both a decrease in SARS-CoV-2 infection, and reduction in symptomatic, at least moderate, and severe/critical COVID-19.

The new research has been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

The objective of the study was to compare the association between UDCA exposure and SARS-CoV-2 infection, as well as varying severities of COVID-19, in a large national cohort of participants with cirrhosis.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, attaches to a cellular receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), and activation of the farnesoid X receptor increases ACE2 expression. suggests that a drug that inhibits the farnesoid X receptor and is used to treat liver disease may decrease SARS-CoV-2 infections and reduce the severity of COVID-19.

The study ran from March 2020 to February 2022 and included 3,214 patients with liver disease, half of whom were taking the drug, called ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). Patients taking UDCA had 46% lower odds of being infected with SARS-CoV-2. Among patients who developed COVID-19, UDCA use was associated with 46% reduced odds of having symptomatic COVID-19, 49% lower odds of having moderate COVID-19, and 52% lower odds of having severe or critical COVID-19.

“Although our findings are hypothesis generating and supplement data in experimental animal and human models, no recommendations on UDCA use in either the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 can be made in the absence of prospective randomized controlled trials,” the authors wrote.


Binu V. John, Dustin Bastaich, Gwilym Webb, Teresa Brevini, Andrew Moon, Raphaella D. Ferreira, Allison M. Chin, David E. Kaplan, Tamar H. Taddei, Marina Serper, Nadim Mahmud, Yangyang Deng, Hann-Hsiang Chao, Fotios Sampaziotis, Bassam Dahman, Published: 05 April 2023

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