Aspirin May Protect Against COVID-19, Israeli Research Suggests

Patients who took small daily doses of aspirin were 29% less likely to test positive for COVID-19 say researchers in Israel. They were also more apt to have a shorter illness and have fewer lingering side effects.

“We were really excited to see a big reduction in the proportion of people testing positive, and this gives us a promising indication that aspirin, such a well-known and inexpensive drug, may be helpful in fighting the pandemic,” said one of the researchers, Milana Frankel-Morgenstern, senior lecturer at Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at  Bar-Ilan University, according to The Times of Israel.

Frenkel-Morgenstern, a pioneer in COVID-19 exploration whose research on the benefits of vitamin D in combatting the disease has been widely followed, said that the effect of aspirin on “long-COVID-19”— lingering symptoms that last long after the initial infection — is “very important.”

The study subjects were taking 75 milligrams of aspirin, commonly called “baby” aspirin to help prevent primary cardiovascular disease. The results of Frenkel-Morgenstern’s research, along with observations from her fellow investigators from Leumit Health Services and Barzilai Medical Center, were published in The FEBS Journal and were peer reviewed.

The expert said that while scientists are not sure of the exact mechanism of how aspirin reduces risks associated with COVID-19, she believes it is the drug’s anti-inflammatory properties that shortens the duration and severity of the disease. She stressed that this is early research and that she is not suggesting that people take aspirin to prevent COVID-19, according to the Times.

According to Science Daily, aspirin is a relatively safe and long-standing medication used primarily to reduce pain and fever. It was very popular during the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic long before scientists confirmed its anti-viral activity. Studies have since shown that aspirin helps modulate the immune response against viral infections.

However, experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine warn that taking daily aspirin can have negative side effects. It irritates your stomach lining and can cause gastrointestinal upset, ulcers, and bleeding. Since aspirin is a blood thinner, it can be dangerous for people who are higher risk of bleeding. It is always wise to check with your healthcare practitioner before taking aspirin.

In the Israeli study, people who contracted COVID-19 and were taking low-dose aspirin were sick on the average of two to three days less than non-users.

“This observation of the possible beneficial effect of low disease aspirin on COVID-19 infection is preliminary but seems very promising,” said Professor Eli Magen, of Barzilai Medical Center, the lead author of the study.

The scientists said that larger studies are needed to repeat the investigation in other countries using diverse populations, according to Science Daily.

“We intend to investigate a larger cohort of patients and in randomized clinical trials,” said Frenkel-Morgenstern.

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