This is not an eight-legged web-building spider. Scientists at Rush University Medical Center (Chicago) have successfully used a small molecule called SPIDAR to reverse cytokine storm, reduce fever, protect lungs, and improve heart function in a mouse model of COVID-19.
The researchers also report success in preventing viral entry into human cells using SPIDAR. Results of the study are just published in the Journal of Immunology.
“This could be a new approach to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and protect COVID-19 patients from breathing problems and cardiac issues”, said Kalipada Pahan, PhD, the Floyd A. Davis Professor of Neurology at Rush and a Research Career Scientist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
Other authors of the article are Dr. Ramesh K. Paidi, Dr. Malabendu Jana, and Dr. Debashis Dutta from Rush University Medical Center and Dr. Rama K. Mishra from Northwestern University.
Understanding the mechanism is important to developing effective therapy for COVID-19. “Since SARS-CoV-2 binds to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) for entering into the cells, we have designed a small peptide corresponding to the Spike S1-Interacting Domain of ACE2 Receptor (SPIDAR) to inhibit the binding of virus with ACE-2”, Dr. Pahan said.
Many COVID-19 patients in the ICU suffer from cytokine storm that affects lungs, heart and other organs. Although anti-inflammatory therapies (e.g. steroids) are available, very often these treatments cause immunosuppression. “SPIDAR inhibits cytokines produced by only SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, not other inflammatory stimuli, indicating that SPIDAR would not cause immunosuppression”, Dr. Pahan said.
“Interestingly, after intranasal treatment, SPIDAR reduces fever, protects lungs, normalizes heart function, and enhances locomotor activities in a mouse model of COVID-19”, Dr. Pahan said.
Although vaccine is available, COVID-19 might stay on the earth as a seasonal and an opportunistic event. For example, despite flu vaccination, about 40,000 to 50,000 people die each year in USA from flu.
Therefore, a specific medicine for reducing SARS-CoV-2-related inflammatory events and taking care of respiratory and cardiac issues of COVID-19 will be necessary for better management of COVID-19 even in the post-vaccine era.
“If our SPIDAR results can be replicated in COVID-19 patients, it would be a remarkable advance in controlling this devastating pandemic,” Dr. Pahan said.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath and with a mortality rate of around 4-5%, it is more than 10 times lethal than the flu.
While anyone is susceptible to COVID-19, the ones over 60 or with preexisting conditions, such as hypertension, obesity, asthma, or diabetes, are more vulnerable to severe symptoms. It appears that COVID-19 is more lethal in men than women. Until now, about 5 million people died throughout the world due to COVID-19.
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