Mason Scientists Explore Herbal Treatment For


image: School of Systems Biology, Associate Professor Ramin Hakami (left) and Professor in the Yuntao Wu School of Systems Biology (right).
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Credit: George Mason University

Could an over-the-counter health “shot” help fight COVID-19? Researchers at George Mason University believe it is possible.

Cell and Biosciences recently highlighted research conducted by Yuntao Wu and Ramin hakami in which they examined the potential anti-coronavirus activities of an over-the-counter drink called Respiratory Detox Shot (RDS).

RDS is a remedy containing nine herbal ingredients traditionally used in oriental medicine to manage lung disease. Researchers reported that RDS inhibited infection of target cells by the SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviruses and infectious wild-type SARS-CoV-2. Their results suggest that RDS could largely inhibit respiratory viruses, such as influenza.

SARS-CoV is the viral pathogen that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and its sister virus, SARS-CoV-2, is the pathogen that causes COVID-19. The global COVID-19 pandemic is a major concern of researchers around the world. Although effective vaccines have been developed, there is still a need to develop effective treatments. In particular, new variants of the virus are constantly emerging, and some of these variants can make vaccines less effective.

Ramin Hakami, associate professor at Mason’s School of Systems Biology and one of the study’s authors said that the fact that RDS is a drinkable dietary supplement is helpful.

“If proven effective in vivo, it should be an easy-to-administer COVID-19 treatment,” said Hakami, who also works at Mason’s National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases. “It’s a big plus.”

For their study, researchers from Hakami, Wu and Mason Brian Hetrick, Adeyemi A. Olanrewaju, Linda D. Chillin, Sijia He, and Deemah Debbagh worked with Dongyang Yu of Virongy LLC, Yuan-Chun Ma of Dr. Ma’s Laboratories Inc. , and Lewis A. Hoffman of the World Health Sciences Organization.

The team looked at extracts of around 40 herbal medicines using a SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus and human lung cells. They also looked for a possible anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity of RDS.

For the study, they pretreated the cells with diluted RDS, then infected the cells in the presence of RDS for four to six hours. After infection, they cultured cells in the absence of RDS and then quantified the cells to determine if viral infection was inhibited at 48 and 72 hours.

Subsequently, the researchers used the biomedical research laboratory at the Mason Science and Technology Campus to confirm the in vitro efficacy of RDS against the infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus.

[The] One study found that RDS contains very potent ingredients that can destroy the infectivity of SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 and influenza A virus even at very low doses, said Wu, a professor at the Mason’s National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and a co-author of the study. In addition, investigators have shown that RDS is effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro.

Hetrick, a bioscience doctoral student working on the study, said the discovery was a happy surprise to him. It would be great if there are safe and effective herbal medicines for the management of COVID-19 in the future.

Hakami is currently conducting in vivo animal studies to build on the in vitro discovery that RDS can be used as a treatment for SARS-CoV-2. He is testing for RDS using K18-hACE2 transgenic mice that will be infected with SARS-CoV-2. Depending on the results, Dejia Harmony, the sponsor of the above preclinical trial, may seek FDA approval to begin clinical trials in humans.

“This study indicates the possibility of using a readily available over-the-counter herbal drink to provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 and influenza A infections,” said Ali Andalibi, senior associate dean of Mason’s College of Science. “It will also be very interesting to see if RDS shows activity against other respiratory viruses.”


About George Mason University

George Mason University is the largest public research university in Virginia. Located near Washington, DC, Mason welcomes 38,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more about

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