Marine red algae may hold key to prevent spread of coronavirus as biocompatible compounds extracted from them can be used as a coating material on sanitary items, a new research by scientists at Reliance Industries has concluded.

COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed thousands of lives around the globe, spread without any solid anti-viral antidote. Researchers worldwide are attempting to make antidote for this virus.

Vinod Nagle, Mahadev Gaikwad, Yogesh Pawar and Santanu Dasgupta, scientists at Reliance Research & Development Centre at Ghansoli in Navi Mumbai, have published a paper 'Marine Red Alga Porphyridium sp. as a Source of Sulfated Polysaccharides (SPs) for Combating Against COVID-19'.

"Research carried out indicates sulfated polysaccharides (carrageenan) are selective inhibitors of several enveloped and non-enveloped viruses and act predominantly by inhibiting the binding or internalization of virus into the host cells.

"Polysaccharides produced from Porphyridium sp. are sulfated polysaccharides which are promising antiviral agents against respiratory viruses from the family of coronavirus. These biocompatible compounds can be used as a coating material on the sanitary items for COVID-19 prevention," their research paper said.

Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani had earlier this month in an internal note to employees talked of research being done by Reliance Life Sciences on COVID-19.

He had also stated that Reliance Life Sciences was enhancing India's COVID-19 testing capabilities by developing its own confirmatory tests. The test will be available to all Reliance employees on priority and will soon be rolled out in the community, he had stated.

"As evident from the various analysis reports worldwide on antiviral activity of SPs from Porphyridium supported with the immunity boosting property, we can say that this microalga can be a versatile player in the treatment of many viral diseases," the research said in the note.

They concluded that the role of carrageenan from different biological sources, including Porphyridium, in controlling coronaviral respiratory infection is commendable.

"To support this research, we can also attempt Porphyridium EPS along with carrageenan and sulfated polysaccharides in clinical trial studies to reduce its proliferation. Since there are multiple molecules in exopolysaccharides of Porphyridium, this organism can make a positive difference in the treatment of COVID-19," it said.

Sulfated polysaccharides from these algae can be used as a coating material on the sanitary items and also for the production of antiviral drugs, it concluded. "The present review can benefit the researchers to use the SPs from algae and provide an antiviral pharmaceutical composition suitable for the prevention or treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by coronavirus."

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