“Needle in a haystack”
Scientists from the University of Bern have found the “needle in a haystack”. This raises hopes for new therapeutic approaches to combat the corona pandemic.
A protein produced by the human immune system can strongly inhibit coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV2, the causative agent of Covid-19. This raised hopes for new therapeutic approaches, the University of Bern announced on Tuesday.
The study by the international team with the involvement of the Institute for Virology and Immunology (IVI) at the University of Bern and the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Science (BLV) shows that an endogenous protein in our immune system prevents the new corona virus from fusing with host cells.
“From this, indications of possible treatment strategies can be derived,” co-author Stephanie Pfänder from the Ruhr University Bochum is quoted in the message. According to Bern IVI professor Volker Thiel, the study was about finding out which factors prevent coronaviruses from jumping from animals to humans.
«Needle found in a haystack»
Thiel is now quoted as having found the needle in the haystack, so to speak. The so-called LY6E protein prevents coronaviruses from causing an infection.
Researchers had previously found that the LY6E protein increases the infectivity of influenza-causing influenza viruses. What is new is the discovery that LY6E has the opposite effect on coronaviruses compared to flu viruses: it prevents infection.
The proof was successful in the animal model. The researchers emphasize that the mouse coronavirus used in the experiment differs significantly from the causative agent of the current Covid 19 outbreak – for example, it does not trigger respiratory diseases, but hepatitis.
However, the mouse coronavirus is widely recognized as a model for understanding the basic concepts of coronavirus replication and immune responses in a living animal.
According to Thiel, the study provides new insights into “how important these antiviral genes are for controlling the virus infection and for an adequate immune response against the virus”. A therapeutic approach that mimics the effects of LY6E could be a “first line of defense” against novel coronavirus infections.
The study by the international team from Switzerland, Germany and the USA was published in the journal “Nature Microbiology”.