SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A cholesterol drug that's been around for years is now being tested as a possible treatment to fight COVID-19.

Researchers said early results show it can reduce the threat of coronavirus to that of a common cold.

It sounds pretty amazing at first glance - a drug that's been around for years with a proven track record used in a different way to fight this pandemic.

However, before more is known, a local infectious disease doctor is urging caution.

In lab studies, researchers at Hebrew University and Mt. Sinai said the cholesterol-lowering drug fenofibrate showed extremely promising results in knocking down COVID-19 basically to symptoms of a common cold.

Researchers said the drug allows lung cells to burn more fat - fat that the coronavirus needs to survive.

“So, the new study is interesting, it’s thought provoking, but we have to recall that it’s in the lab or in vitro. We don't know if it’s going to translate into patients,” said Baystate Health infectious disease Dr. Daniel Skiest.

Skiest said lab tests and human tests are very different.

“Still a lot of steps to go to get make sure it’s safe, make sure it’s effective. We need more research, but I don't think we can hang our hats on it right now,” Skiest added. 

Skiest told Western Mass News that while the idea has merit, much flushing out needs to be done.

“There's been a lot of drugs they've dusted off the shelves or used drugs for other indications for COVID. An example, of course, is hydroxychloroquine, used for people with autoimmune disorders like lupus and other things. In the lab, it looks to be affected, but numerous studies have shown that it’s not helpful, it may be harmful,” Skiest noted.

Still, researchers are hoping to move soon into clinical trials.

Essentially, researchers said they believe this drug could stop the virus in its tracks once you have it. It’s very different from the concept of a vaccine which, in theory, stops the virus before you get it.

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