For the First Time in the World: Belgian Scientists have Discovered How to Block COVID-19
For the first time in the world, Belgian researchers from the University of Leuven, Belgium, were able to identify and block the key that allows the coronavirus to attack cells, thus preventing Covid-19 infection.
The discovery, published in Nature Communications, raises hopes that an antiviral drug could be developed to eradicate the virus in the event of infection or high-risk contact, the university said.
Researchers point out that despite vaccination campaigns, the population is not immune to the emergence of a new variant of the virus, and the long-term effectiveness of vaccines remains unknown.
In addition, some people are still infected with severe infections because there is no effective treatment.
David Alsteins, a researcher at the Institute for Biomolecular Science and Technology (LIBST) at the University of Leuven, and his team have been working for two years to understand the mechanisms used by the virus to infect the cell.
They studied the interaction between sialic acid (AS), a type of sugar residue on the cell surface, and the spiked protein SARS-CoV-2, to clarify its role in the infection process.
It has already been known that the sialic acids surrounding cells make it easier for viruses to identify their targets, but they also make it easier for the virus to attach and infect the cell.
In this study, researchers identified a variant of these sialic acids that interacts more strongly with the spike protein of the virus than others. "In short, they found the key that the virus uses to open the door to the cells," the university said.
The researchers then decided to lure the virus into its own trap by preventing it from attaching to its host. The researchers were able to block the attachment points of the spike protein and suppress any interaction with the cell surface.
"If the virus can't attach to the cells, it can't enter the cells and die. This prevents infection," the university said, noting that the advantage of this discovery is that it works with any variant of the virus regardless of mutations.
What does this mean for the future?
The research team is going to test mice to apply this blocker to the virus and see if it will work on the body. The results should allow the development of an antiviral drug.
In other words, the discovery raises hopes for an antiviral drug to eradicate the virus.
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