St. Jude scientists may have figured out how the pandemic virus kills and how to stop it.
COVID-19 has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide. Current treatment may include extra oxygen and breathing support.
The virus responsible for COVID-19 can cause life-threatening inflammation and breathing problems. The virus can also damage the heart, kidneys and other organs. Until now, the process causing the inflammation and tissue damage was uncertain.
Scientists identified how the virus activates inflammatory cell death pathways. Based on this discovery, they found that drugs already used to treat some inflammatory diseases could be repurposed for use in COVID-19.
The drugs protected against death in mice with COVID-19 as well as sepsis and other inflammatory disorders that every year kill millions worldwide. This includes hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), in which the immune system does not work right.
“The understanding that we gained in this study of how SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19 and inflammation helped us identify a promising therapy that relies on available drugs,” said Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, PhD, of St. Jude Immunology.
Cell published a report on this work.