Metformin, a popular blood sugar medication, could help reduce hospitalizations from COVID-19 and the dreaded long-term health effects from the infection known as long COVID, a recent study has revealed.

A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota discovered that the use of metformin can reduce the amount of COVID-19 virus in the body, which decides the severity of the infection. It also lowers the risk of viral rebound, a condition that causes the virus to come back strongly after initial treatment.

"The results of the study are important because COVID-19 continues to cause illness, both during acute infection and for months after infection," said principal investigator Dr. Carolyn Bramante in a news release.

The use of metformin was tested against a placebo in 1,323 adults infected with COVID-19. At day 10 of the treatment, the viral load of the metformin group was about four times lower than those who were on placebo. Compared to placebo, the metformin group also had less viral rebound.

"Among the volunteers in this randomized trial, there was a more than 41% reduction of long COVID among those receiving metformin and a 58% reduction in hospitalization by 28 days. This new study explains why this occurred. Metformin reduced the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus present, which likely accounts for why this $1 medication reduced hospitalizations and long COVID," said a study author, David Boulware.

However, the study did not evaluate the effect of metformin in adults who had prior infection, and future research in the area is required.

"The research team concludes that metformin treatment for adults recently infected with COVID-19 is an effective way to reduce the amount of the virus in the nose and to keep the amount of the virus from becoming elevated again," the news release stated.

According to the NIH, Metformin is considered a potential COVID-19 therapeutic agent "because of its possible action against the proteins that are involved in translation, its antiviral activity in vitro, and its anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic activities."

However, the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel does not recommend either for or against the use of metformin in the treatment of non-hospitalized COVID patients, and recommends against the use in hospitalized patients, except in clinical trials. Those patients with COVID-19 who take metformin for their underlying condition are advised to continue the drug as directed by their healthcare provider.