Protein identified as a new antiviral therapeutic target for COVID-19
New research has identified a new interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and the galectin-3 binding protein (LGALS3BP) that may be a new therapeutic target for antiviral therapy. Research has also found that the presence of detectable viral RNA in the blood of COVID-19 patients is a strong predictor of mortality.
The document, published today in Nature Communication, was led by a group of researchers from King’s College London, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s British Heart Foundation Center. The research was funded by NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Center and supported by grants from BHF.
In the study, the authors analyzed nearly 500 blood samples from patients admitted to Guy’s and St Thomas and King’s College hospitals. The authors compared plasma and serum samples between patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) with COVID-19 and non-ICU COVID-19 hospital patients and non-COVID-19 ICU patients.
Almost a quarter of COVID-19 patients in intensive care had detectable RNAemia – RNA from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 – within the first six days after admission to intensive care. The presence of RNAaemia was a strong predictor of 28-day mortality. RNAemia was detectable in 56% of deceased patients but in only 13% of survivors.
Researchers also identified LGALS3BP as an advanced SARS-CoV-2 protein binding protein
The increasing levels of LGALS3BP in the lungs offered protection to cells against the harmful effects of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The identification of LGALS3BP as a potential antiviral protein is encouraging as the UK government launched an antiviral task force in April 2021 to find effective treatments that could prevent future waves of infections and limit the effect of new variants.
Professor Manu Shankar Hari, NIHR clinician scientist based at King’s College London and intensive care medicine consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “We report that the presence of viral RNA detectable in plasma or serum from COVID-19 patients is associated with an increased risk of serious disease. We also highlight a novel interaction with a potential antiviral effect between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and a protein called galectin-3 binding protein The results of our research have two main implications: First, there is an unmet need for diagnostic technology for near-patient testing to identify the presence of viral RNA in the blood in COVID-19 patients Second, our research potentially highlights an antiviral drug target, which is a priority area highlighted in the UK government’s launch of a VOC antiviral ID-19 Intervention Force. “
Professor Manuel Mayr, Professor of the British Heart Foundation at King’s College London, said: “As Professor of the British Heart Foundation, I am delighted that we have been able to join forces with our fellow clinicians to contribute to a better understanding COVID-19. This is the first time that blood proteins capable of binding to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein have been analyzed using specialized equipment available at the King’s British Heart Foundation Center. ”
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