Breakthrough could inform Coronavirus treatment strategies
By JANELLE HOM
COVID-19 is currently the top story worldwide. Other events of the new year seemingly pale in comparison to how this evolving health crisis – now upgraded to a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) – continues to unapologetically consume our daily lives.
So, in this spirit, we exchanged germ-free elbow bumps upon learning that one of our researchers, John Schoggins, PhD, made an exciting medical discovery in early March. An associate professor of microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Schoggins and his international collaborators (Charles Rice, PhD, at The Rockefeller University in New York and Volker Thiel, PhD, at University of Bern in Switzerland) are credited with identifying LY6E, a naturally occurring protein that has been shown to inhibit coronavirus infection. Their findings are detailed in a pre-print article, entitled “LY6E Impairs Coronavirus Fusion and Confers Immune Control of Viral Disease.”
“My lab has a longstanding history researching how cells defend themselves from viral infection. This particular protein, LY6E, demonstrates the ability to block the COVID-19 virus and other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS from fusing to the cells, thus significantly reducing the probability of infection when tested in vitro. It also helps the immune system control coronavirus disease in vivo,” explained Dr. Schoggins to the Lung Association.
Dr. Schoggins received the Lung Association’s Innovation Award in 2019-2020, which aims to match the brightest minds with the best science, in support and recognition of his pioneering project, “New Avenue for Keeping Influenza in Check.” Through this project, which set out to investigate how macrophages affect the influenza virus, the team ultimately landed on LY6E and determined it plays a key role in the primary immune response defending against coronavirus. Quite an opportune outcome during an ongoing global race to curb the fast-paced spread of COVID-19.
Now that LY6E has been detected and examined, they plan to expand their inquiry to see whether it can be translated into treatment options. “We’re thinking about ways to mimic LY6E in the hopes of developing a complementary small molecule or peptide drug target, along the lines of a fusion inhibitor,” Dr. Schoggins added. “The team is appreciative of organizations such as the American Lung Association for taking chances on cutting-edge research such as ours.”
We’ll keep you updated on next steps of Dr. Schoggins’ study, but in the meantime, we’re proud that our Research Team is hard at work on timely and impactful research!
Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones
Signs and Symptoms of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Reported illnesses of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and even death. The CDC reports that symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, and include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Steps to Preventing Illness and Spread
The virus is thought to spread from person-to-person between people in close contact, including through coughs and sneezes. So how do you protect yourself from the coronavirus and other germs?
- Be careful to limit your handshakes, high-fives and fist bumps where the virus can be easily transmitted. In fact, we have five alternatives to the traditional handshakewhen greeting someone.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth—as it allows the germs on your hands to reach moist, porous surface tissue where the germs can enter your body and cause infection.
- Wash your hands early and often, and with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Need help counting? Try singing instead. Read our blog for more handwashing best practices.
- No soap and water near? Use hand sanitizer with at least 60-95% alcohol.
- Limit your contact with people who are sick.
- If you experience symptoms of an illness, have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider and stay home to avoid crowds and contact with others. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch.
Who Is Most At-Risk for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Like the seasonal flu, older adults and those with underlying health conditions may be more at risk for severe symptoms. That being said, unlike the flu, COVID-19 does not seem to create complications in young children. Individuals of all ages have been infected with COVID-19 with symptoms that range from mild to severe. So, practicing good hand washing and alternatives to the handshake should be something all age groups partake in.