In a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers found a drug treatment that acts as a decoy against SARS-CoV-2 was highly effective at preventing death and lung damage in severe COVID-19 disease.
The study suggests that the drug has the potential to treat COVID-19 patients, including those who are infected with aggressive SARS-CoV-2 variants.
While vaccines remain the best option for preventing infections, long-term complications and death from COVID-19, there is an urgent need for the development of effective treatments for vulnerable patients, especially as new variants continue to arise.
The drug treatment consists of an artificially engineered ACE2 protein designed with unprecedently high binding capacity for the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which binds to natural ACE2 protein receptors located on human cells and causes COVID-19.
The drug works by competing for the spike protein and soaking up viruses before they can bind and enter cells.
In animal studies of severe COVID-19, the team found that mice receiving the treatment showed markedly reduced death and no strong evidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome, the hallmark of the disease and primary cause of death.
The mice receiving the drug also regained appetite and weight, which are signs of recovery.
The benefits were seen even when mice were exposed to the aggressive gamma variant, suggesting the drug’s broad applicability against newly emerging COVID-19 variants.
The team says the reduced rates of fluid buildup in the lungs and of death in the treatment group illustrates the potential of the ACE2 decoy to help people with severe COVID-19.
Severe fluid buildup in the lung is one of the complications of COVID-19 that makes it difficult for patients to breathe and leads to the need for a ventilator.
The team also found that the drug was able to bind to the spike proteins from all the variants tested, which included the alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon variants, which were available at the time of the study.
They also found that it bound equally, if not better, to the variants than it did to the original strain of the virus.
Considering the emergence of omicron, it is very good news that the ACE2 decoy was able to bind and neutralize several variants.
This reinforces the potential of this drug as a treatment, including against new or future variants of the virus.
If you care about Covid, please read studies that slow walkers four times more likely to die from COVID-19, and health problem linked to lower COVID-19 infection risk.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about common drugs for inflammation, depression, alcoholism that may treat COVID-19, and results showing the most effective face-mask practices to reduce spread of COVID-19.
The study is published in Nature Chemical Biology. One author of the study is Asrar Malik.
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