Israeli scientists claim yogurt drink can help Covid-19 symptoms

Israeli scientists claim yogurt drink can help Covid-19 symptoms
Scientists from Ben-Gurion University have presented a paper which claimed that kefir can help to restore the balance of the immune system in the body.
2 min read
13 April, 2021
The research was conducted at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev [Getty]

Scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have claimed that molecules present in kefir yogurt can help treat the symptoms caused by Covid-19.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Microbiome, PhD student Orit Malka and Prof. Raz Jelinek showed how microorganisms found in kefir yogurt can treat inflammatory conditions, including cytokine storms.

Kefir is a fermented drink, similar to yogurt but with a thinner consistency. It is made from kefir grains, a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture.

Cytokine storms occur when the body’s immune system overloads and attacks itself, and has been noted as a leading cause of death in patients suffering infected with Covid-19

"Cytokines are immune molecules that are designed to help the body fight invaders like viruses. But in certain circumstances, and scientists don’t know exactly why, the body goes into a sort of overdrive and secretes many cytokines - so many that it kills you. That is what happens during Covid," Jelinek told The Jerusalem Post.

The research into yogurt started several years before the Covid-19, when Malka registered the therapeutic effects yogurt had. During their research they identified molecules which held antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

"We knew that we had found these molecules in yogurt with anti-inflammatory properties, so, when Covid started, we said, Let's see if these molecules can help against cytokine storms," explained Jelinek.

Their theories were tested on mice, in which they induced cytokine storms. The immune system's balance in the mice who were given yogurt was completely restored, leading to a total recovery. The mice who were not given the yogurt died. 

The scientist wanted to be able to use their ideas to help patients during the pandemic, but were hampered by regulations. The pair are now hoping that the treatment can be used for other conditions. 

"Cytokine storms don't only happen with Covid. This is a very bad condition with really very few treatments against it," Jelinek said.

Read more: 'Political systems are broken': A year of Covid-19 and repression in the Middle East

With the difficulties in getting drugs approved, the pair are planning to market the treatment as a probiotic or supplement. 

"This is the first demonstration that virulence of human pathogenic bacteria can be mitigated by molecules secreted in probiotic milk products, such as yogurt or kefir. I don’t think there were any molecular mechanisms that people knew for sure would have a therapeutic effect. Now we know," explained Jelinek.

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