The successful clinical study of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) that showed virgin coconut oil (VCO) as an effective functional food that helps in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, done last year in Santa Rosa, Laguna, is set to go international.

Another coconut-producing country, Sri Lanka, has expressed interest in conducting a similar clinical trial on VCO as an adjunct therapy for COVID-19 afflicted patients in the South Asian island nation.  

Science Sec. Fortunato dela Peña said that stalwarts of the coconut industry in Sri Lanka are already coordinating with the DOST-FNRI to conduct a VCO clinical study on COVID-19 patients testing its therapeutic benefits versus the coronavirus.

DOST is investing about PHP8.4M to explore the possible use of VCO as adjunctive therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Adjunctive therapy is given to assist the primary treatment provided to the patients.

In one project amounting to PHP4.8M, 74 eligible patients from the Philippine General Hospital will participate in a study that will monitor the safety of VCO. The patients will be randomly assigned either to a standard care or treatment group. The treatment group will receive 15mL or about one tablespoon of VCO every meal, three times a day on top of standard regular care for two weeks. During this period, their lipid profile, fasting blood sugar, creatinine, and efficacy of VCO through recovery from symptoms and virus clearance of the patients will be closely monitored. This project is under the supervision of Dr. Marissa M. Alejandria of the University of the Philippines Manila.

Results from this study will prove the efficacy of VCO in helping improve the overall health status and recovery of a COVID-19 patient.  

The Sri Lankans, Dela Peña said, will soon meet with FNRI Director Imelda Agdeppa and Ateneo de Manila University professor Fabian Dayrit, who both led the VCO clinical trials in Santa Rosa for a briefing on the Philippine VCO study.  

Agdeppa said that the cooperation effort is still being planned out. 

“They are setting a meeting with us to discuss our findings and maybe possibly conduct the study in their country,” Agdeppa told The Star.  

The results of the DOST-FNRI VCO clinical trials have been published in an international scientific journal, the Journal of Functional Foods, last May. 

The clinical trials covered 57 adults at the Santa Rosa Community Hospital, and the Santa Rosa, Laguna COVID-19 Quarantine Facility in Canossa Institute, who were admitted or isolated for being suspect or probable COVID-19 cases. 

The main finding of the study declared that VCO had shortened the recovery period for VCO patients by at least five days. 

Of the 57 suspected and probable patient-participants, a total of 37 tested positive for COVID-19. Of the 37 confirmed COVID-19 positive participants, 19 were in the group given meals mixed with VCO, and 18 in the control group who were given meals with no VCO. 

The publication in the international journal will allow the study to be reviewed by the world’s top scientists. 

DOST-FNRI plans on expanding clinical trials on VCO in the cities of Valenzuela and Muntinlupa, targeted to be finished within the year. 

The expansion trial, which targets 120 participants with mild to moderate COVID-19, continues to face difficulty in enlisting participants without comorbidities.