Why do some people not get Corona? Researchers from Australia have now gained new insights – and see opportunities for powerful drugs.
Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, there have been repeated reports of people who appear to be immune to the virus, while many others have now been infected several times – sometimes several times with the same corona variant. It is still not fully understood why some infected people suffer a severe course, while others get away with mild cold symptoms.
Scientists at the Charles Perkins Center at the University of Sydney now claim to have found an answer to this phenomenon. They published their results in the scientific journal “Plos Biology”.
A “molecular zipper”
The researchers led by Greg Neely, professor of functional genomics, investigated which genes are responsible for cells binding to the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein.
During their investigations, they discovered a protein called LRRC15, which is produced in lung cells when someone is infected with the coronavirus . However, LRRC15 is not a protein that promotes coronavirus infection. It only appears in the human body when the virus has already invaded.
The scientists believe that this protein is part of an immune system that the body builds up in the event of an infection. LRRC15 appears to protect against severe corona courses while activating the immune system. This could also explain why some people hardly become infected with the virus or only show mild symptoms.
LRRC15 attaches itself to the tip of the virus and then pulls it away from the cells, explained Lipin Loo, a scientist also involved in the project, in the Guardian. LRRC15 appears to slow down the virus. The scientists assume that the larger the amount of this special protein in the body, the easier the Covid disease will be for those affected.
Key to a new drug against Covid?
According to Neely, many of these proteins were discovered in dead people who were proven to have had Corona. However, the amount would not have been enough to prevent a critical course of the disease. The researchers assume that infected people will survive the disease better the more LRRC15 proteins their organism produces.
A study from London supports this thesis. Accordingly, blood samples from patients with severe disease had fewer LRRC15 proteins than those from patients with mild disease. “Our data suggests that higher levels of LRRC15 lead to less severe disease,” explains Neely.With the new knowledge about the LRRC15 protein, “broadly acting drugs” can be developed, explains Neely. A viral infection with Sars-CoV-2 can thus be blocked and severe lung infection suppressed.