Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have investigated how an antiviral protein called interferon interacts with SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, focuses on how the innate arm of the immune system protects against this coronavirus. The work resulted from a collaborative effort by several scientists, including Mario Santiago, PhD, associate professor of medicine, and Eric Poschla, MD, professor of medicine, both in laboratories at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Whereas the adaptive arm of the immune system responds definitively to infection by generating antibodies and T cells, the innate arm forms the first, first line of defense by recognizing conserved molecular patterns in pathogens. “SARS-CoV-2 has just recently crossed the species barrier in humans and continues to adapt to its new host,” Poeshala says. “A lot of attention has focused on the serial evasion of viruses with neutralizing antibodies. The virus seems to have also adapted to evade innate responses.”
Interferons are central molecules in the innate immune system that trigger a cascade of antiviral responses in cells within minutes of infection. As such, the interferon pathway can significantly reduce the level of virus initially produced by an infected person.
“They are clinically viable therapeutic agents that have been studied for years for viruses such as HIV-1,” Santiago says. “Here we looked at 17 different human interferons and found that some interferons, such as IFNalpha8, more strongly inhibited SARS-CoV-2. Importantly, the latter variants of the virus were important for their antiviral effects. For example, significantly more interferons would be needed to inhibit the omicron variant than strains isolated during the early days of the pandemic.”
The data shows that there are COVID-19 clinical trials on interferon – dozens of which are in ClinicalTrials. The researchers say that future work may contribute in that direction to understand which of the proteins of SARS-CoV-2 is evolving to confer interferon resistance.
material provided by University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Original written by Kelsa Peters. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.