The Week That Wasn't in COVID-19: DIY Vaccine, Seaweed Antiviral, Cabbage

Victoria Giardina


August 07, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

In recent COVID-19 news, scientists experimented with a do-it-yourself vaccine, researchers proposed that a compound extracted from seaweed could be a more effective antiviral than remdesivir, and a study suggested that eating cabbage was associated with lower mortality from COVID-19. But you didn't see these headlines on Medscape Medical News. Here's why.

DIY Vaccine

More than 20 scientists, some affiliated with Harvard University and MIT, self-administered a do-it-yourself nasally delivered COVID-19 vaccine without authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration, MIT Technology Review reported. The group, which calls itself the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative (RADVAC), includes famous but controversial geneticist George Church. One of his former graduate students developed the DIY vaccine, which contains virus peptides and chitosan, a substance derived from shrimp shells that enables the peptides to pass through the mucous membrane of the nose.

The story is fascinating, but the DIY vaccine is not something clinicians can use for their patients. Moreover, RADVAC has not yet published evidence that the vaccine elicits an immune response sufficient to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Plus, the ethical and legal standing of self-experimentation is murky. Medscape does cover COVID-19 vaccine development news, but we didn't see the need to highlight this approach for our readers.

Seaweed Extract

Researchers writing in the journal Cell Discovery described their results from testing several seaweed-derived compounds, including heparin, in cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 in petri dishes and measuring the compounds' antiviral activity. The most potent compound they tested, called RPI-27, was "substantially more potent than remdesivir," they reported.

Although better treatments for COVID-19 would, of course, be welcome news, the antiviral effects of any medication tested in vitro still need to be proven in clinical trials. We thought this study, with its still preliminary hints that seaweed extracts could be helpful to COVID-19 patients, wasn't relevant for our readers' clinical practices yet.

Cabbage Benefits

A new study, posted to the preprint server, suggests that eating cabbage was associated with lower country-wide COVID-19 mortality, the South China Morning Post reported.

The researchers compiled dietary data from the European Food Safety Authority's food consumption database and analyzed it with COVID-19 mortality data from Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center. They concluded that consuming on average 1 gram per day more cabbage was correlated with a 13.6% lower COVID-19 mortality rate. Consuming a similar amount of cucumbers was correlated with a 15.7% lower mortality.

Although interesting to highlight the potential relationship between diet and the pandemic, it is a stretch to claim a specific food reduces COVID-19 mortality, especially given the many other factors besides diet that could influence differences in mortality by country. We didn't think this information, which hasn't yet been peer reviewed, would be of high priority to our readers.

Victoria Giardina is Medscape's editorial intern. She has previously written for "The Dr. Oz Show" and is currently a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus. She can be reached at or on Twitter @VickyRGiardina.

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