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Nasally-Introduced Peptide Could Be New Approach to Preventing SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Treating COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Jan 2021
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A new potential therapy for COVID-19 being developed by researchers has shown success in preventing the disease’s symptoms in mice.

In a study, mouse models with COVID-19 showed positive results when a peptide (chain of amino acids) designed by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, IL, USA) was introduced nasally. The peptide proved effective in reducing fever, protecting the lungs, improving heart function and reversing cytokine storm - the immune system overreacting to an infection and flooding the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins. The researchers have also reported success in preventing the disease from progression.

Many patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units suffer from cytokine storm, which affects lungs, heart and other organs. Although anti-inflammatory therapies such as steroids are available to treat the problem, very often these treatments cause suppression of the immune system. Despite vaccines for COVID-19 now becoming available, a specific medicine for reducing inflammatory events and treating respiratory and cardiac problems caused by COVID-19 will be necessary for better management of the disease even in the post-vaccine era.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, binds to an enzyme called ACE2 to enter and infect human cells. In response, the research team designed a hexapeptide (a peptide with six amino acids) that inhibits the virus from binding with ACE2.

“The peptide inhibits cytokines that only are produced by the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, not other inflammatory stimuli, indicating that this peptide would not cause immunosuppression,” said Kalipada Pahan, PhD, the Floyd A. Davis Professor of Neurology at the Rush University Medical Center and a research career scientist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, who led the study. “The peptide inhibits cytokines that only are produced by the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, not other inflammatory stimuli, indicating that this peptide would not cause immunosuppression.”

“If our peptide results can be replicated in COVID-19 patients, it would be a remarkable advance in controlling this devastating pandemic,” added Pahan. “This could be a new approach to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and protect COVID-19 patients from breathing problems and cardiac issues.”

Related Links:
Rush University Medical Center

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