Scientists discover potential “game changer” that “could help eliminate Covid-19”
“The question now is how to turn this new knowledge against the virus itself and defeat the pandemic.”
Scientists at the University of Bristol have published the findings of a “ground-breaking” discovery that could be used to stop the Covid-19 virus from infecting human cells.
The findings by an international team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, were published in the journal Science on Monday (21 September) and have been described as a potential “game changer” in defeating the Covid-19 pandemic.
The discovery is in relation to a druggable pocket in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein that could be used to stop the virus from infecting human cells.
Analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike revealed the presence of a small molecule, linoleic acid (LA), buried in a tailor-made pocket within the Spike protein.
The human body cannot produce LA, but instead absorbs it through diet. LA plays a vital role in inflammation and immune modulation, which are both key elements of Covid-19 disease progression. LA is also needed to maintain cell membranes in the lungs so that humans can breathe properly.
"We were truly puzzled by our discovery, and its implications,” said Professor Christiane Schaffitzel, head of the team of scientists responsible for the discovery.
“So here we have LA, a molecule which is at the centre of those functions that go haywire in Covid-19 patients, with terrible consequences. And the virus that is causing all this chaos, according to our data, grabs and holds on to exactly this molecule – basically disarming much of the body's defences.
"From other diseases we know that tinkering with LA metabolic pathways can trigger systemic inflammation, acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. These pathologies are all observed in patients suffering from severe Covid-19. A recent study of Covid-19 patients showed markedly reduced LA levels in their sera."
Clip via University of Bristol
The team of scientists at Bristol University say they are optimistic that a previous strategy in relation to the rhinovirus, a virus that causes the common cold, to develop anti-viral drugs to stop its infectivity, can be pursued to develop anti-viral drugs to battle the coronavirus.
"Covid-19 continues to cause widespread devastation and in the absence of a proven vaccine, it is vital that we also look at other ways to combat the disease,” Professor Schaffitzel added.
“If we look at HIV, after 30 years of research what worked in the end is a cocktail of small molecule anti-viral drugs that keeps the virus at bay. Our discovery of a druggable pocket within the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein could lead to new anti-viral drugs to shut down and eliminate the virus before it entered human cells, stopping it firmly in its tracks."