Eggs May Hold the Key to a New COVID-19 Treatment

Multiple studies published in the last two years indicate that eggs from chickens immunized against SARS-CoV-2 could be used to create effective treatments against COVID-19 in humans. There is no evidence, however, that this development is responsible for the current egg shortage in the United States, as some conspiracy theories allege.

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology March 2022, researchers found that egg antibodies (IgYs) produced by chickens immunized against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein had the ability to neutralize the virus, specifically by interfering with the spike protein’s capacity to attach to human cells.

The researchers concluded that IgY targeting the spike protein “could be a promising candidate for pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis or treatment of COVID-19.”

They added that “administration of IgY-based oral preparation, oral or nasal spray may have profound implications for blocking SARS-CoV-2.”

A 2021 study published in the journal International Immunopharmacology concluded that anti-spike protein IgYs “showed significant neutralizing potency against SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus, various spike protein mutants, and even SARS-CoV in vitro.”

The authors concluded such antibodies “might be a feasible tool for the prevention and control of ongoing COVID-19.”

This study also suggested that such a treatment might have several advantages over monoclonal antibodies, including reduced side effects and reduced production costs. As the authors point out,  IgYs have been noted by researchers since 1959 for “their stable chemical properties” and low cost, high yield results that make them a potentially more attractive treatment option for developing countries.

When it comes to reduced side effects, the study notes,  “IgYs neither bind the human rheumatoid factors, nor activate the human complement system, which minimizes the risks of inflammation.”  In essence, egg antibodies do not cause allergy or set off immune reactions when injected into humans.

The study points out that IgY antibodies have also been applied to combat human viral infections such as the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza virus, and Coxsackie virus.

The authors cite a 2006 study of an earlier SARS coronavirus in which anti-SARS coronavirus IgYs were purified from chickens immunized with an inactive form of the virus, and the resulting antibodies were able to neutralize the live virus both in vitro and in vivo.

A third study published last in Viruses last July by researchers at UC-Davis also found evidence supporting the approach of producing COVID-19 antibodies in birds.

Rodrigo Gallardo, a UC-Davis professor in poultry medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine lauded the approach in an article on the university’s website.

“The beauty of the system is that you can produce a lot of antibodies in birds. In addition to a low cost to produce these antibodies in hens, they can be updated very fast by using updated antigens to hyperimmunize hens, allowing protection against current variant strains.”

The Egg Shortage Theory

The egg antibody research offers such a compelling avenue for COVID-19 treatment that it has spurred questions of a potential conspiracy given the current egg shortage in the United States.

An article in the DCPatriot asked, “Is that why eggs are disappearing at an alarming rate? Is that why chicken farms are being destroyed? We don’t know, but it sure is a ‘what the hell is happening here’ moment, isn’t it?”

However, even though chickens can be used to produce antibodies, they first have to be exposed to the virus. All the studies involved hens that were exposed to the coronavirus.  The study published in Applied Microbiology found that a control group of non-immunized IgYs had “no obvious inhibitory effect on the virus” as indicated in the graph below that compares the results of IgYs from immunized hens (blue line) to those of the control group (red line):

Epoch Times Photo
Luminescence inhibition rate curve of the anti-(SARS-Cov-2) IgY (blue) and normal (control) IgY (red) from the pseudovirus neutralization assay. (Elsevier COVID-19 resource centre)

There appears to be no scientific evidence then that the eggs in your local supermarket are an effective treatment for COVID-19.  Furthermore, the contemplated delivery systems, such as nasal sprays, would deliver a highly refined and concentrated dosage, further enhancing the impact of the antibodies.

Eggs as COVID-19 Fighters

That said, as reported by the Times of India, “coronavirus quarantine facilities around the world, are offering eggs to their patients in recovery with their daily meals.”

The Times reported that authorities are also providing a lot of healthcare workers eggs daily to boost their immunity.

Eggs come packed with amino acids and antioxidants, which improve your health and keep your immune system functioning optimally.

Each egg (85 calories) contains 7 grams of muscle-building protein apart from essential core vitamins like selenium (22 percent) and vitamin A, B and K. Eggs also contain another nutrient, riboflavin, which supports development and growth.

Each egg also provides 27 percent of the RDA of vitamin D, which a recent meta-analysis (2022) of multiple studies has shown to be effective in reducing instances of COVID-19 infection as well as the severity of infections.

Reposted from: https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/eggs-may-hold-the-key-to-a-new-covid-19-treatment_5038013.html

Chinese study made coronavirus antibodies in eggs by vaccinating hens

A 2021 study in China investigated antibodies generated by immunizing hens with a specific protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and found that the antibodies extracted from yolks could neutralize some versions of the coronavirus tested in the lab.

The results do not mean that all egg yolks contain coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies or that eating eggs would prevent COVID-19, as suggested in some widely shared posts online.

“So EGGS prevent COVID. Do you see it yet?,” reads one Feb. 2 comment on Twitter attaching an extract of the paper that has garnered over 3,600 retweets (here). Other examples can be seen on Instagram (here) (here).

Posts refer to a study originally published in November 2020 (here), which analyzed immunoglobulin Y (or lgY) antibodies generated in the yolks of eggs from laying hens that had been immunized with the “spike” protein from SARS-CoV-2. The researchers then tested the antibodies in human cells in the lab and found that they could block versions of a mock SARS-CoV-2 virus, and even SARS-CoV-1, from binding to the ACE-2 receptor these viruses normally use to enter human cells.

Qinglin Meng, a senior author of the study, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Not all eggs, however, contain the specific antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2, Rodrigo Gallardo, professor in poultry medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, told Reuters via email.

“Even though all hens and egg yolks contain lgY’s, in order to obtain those that neutralize SARS-CoV-2 you need to immunize (vaccinate) hens with a vaccine containing the virus, proteins, subunits or mRNA from the virus,” he said.

Gallardo coauthored a similar study conducted in 2022 at UC Davis (here) , which found that the purified antibodies from eggs harvested from hens given high doses of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein could “neutralize” the virus in-vitro (here )

Producing lgY antibodies in eggs by immunizing hens has long been used as a way to generate large quantities of antibody quickly for use in treating diseases in other animals, as described in a 2011 review of the field (here).

During the pandemic, many researchers have also focused on the potential for employing this relatively inexpensive method to produce lgY antibodies in eggs for use in treating or preventing COVID in humans (jogh.org/2022/jogh-12-05009), (here) .

Such treatments are not likely to be delivered by having people consume the eggs. Rather, the process would extract and purify the antibodies made in the eggs, then use them like other antibody medications, which are typically given intravenously (www.mdpi.com/1999-4923/10/3/83) , (www.mdpi.com/1999-4923/10/3/83) .

Some posts referring to the November 2020 Chinese study (whose final version was formally published in January 2021) conflate the false idea that eggs treat COVID with the rise of egg prices in the United States (here) and even with a large fire that broke out at an egg farm in Connecticut on Jan. 28 (here).

One Twitter user commented, “Yes, that may be why there’s a shortage… very fishi,” and another wrote, “That makes a lot of sense now why egg farms are going up in spoke...(sic).”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, a worldwide outbreak of avian flu that has killed millions of commercial chickens is among the causes for the increase in egg prices (here)

Hillandale Farms, operator of the egg farm in Bozrah, Connecticut that is mentioned in some posts, has said the cause of the fire is still being investigated (here). The fire would not impact egg prices, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture told NBC Connecticut (here).

VERDICT

Misleading. A study in China immunized hens to generate antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in their eggs, it did not find that all eggs contain such antibodies or that eggs have any effect on COVID.

Fact Check produced by the Reuters Fact Check team

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