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Scientists find Achilles heel of coronavirus, herpes and influenza
Most people who get a virus later recover with no long-term problems. This is true even for COVID-19, the coronavirus that has spread across the entire globe and stolen countless lives.
But not everyone’s immune system is capable of fighting back and winning.
New research has discovered how viruses gain a foothold in the body… and what could be the Achilles’ heel that allows us to defeat coronavirus for good.
Circumventing your body’s immune system
Viruses have an exceptional ability to circumvent your body’s immune system and cause illness. Scientists have long believed that if we could just understand the tactics the viruses use when they attack the immune system that we could also find a way to stop them. This is exactly what researchers from the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University, Denmark set out to discover.
The team had already carried out years of research into the immune system’s ability to fight diseases caused by the herpes virus, influenza viruses and, most recently, the SARS-CoV2 virus, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 infection.
Their new study could be the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for.
The team specifically investigated how the herpes simplex virus circumvents the immune system in order to cause infections of the brain. This is a super rare infection, but it has a high mortality rate once you’re affected.
The team found that there’s one specific reason the virus is able to spread and cause death.
“In the study, we found that the herpes simplex virus is capable of inhibiting a protein in the cells, known as STING, which is activated when there is a threat. When STING is inhibited, the body’s immune system is also inhibited — the virus thereby puts the brakes on the body’s brake, which is supposed to prevent us from becoming ill. Other viruses also make use of the same principle,” said Søren Riis Paludan, lead researcher for the study.
Here’s where the good news comes in.
The team says that now that we know how the virus establishes infections in the body, we may have a way to block that process as well. According to Paludan, the results show that if we can prevent viruses from blocking STING, then we can stop them from replicating as well.
The common denominator
Weren’t they studying the herpes virus? And if so, why did we say that the research may have found a way to defeat coronavirus and save the world from COVID-19?
Well, the answer’s simple…
Previous studies have shown that coronavirus inhibits STING in the exact same way as the herpes virus. In fact, the researchers believe that inhibition is a common denominator for several types of viruses including herpes, flu and coronavirus.
That means that any antivirals or vaccines developed for one of the viruses thanks to the research could open the way for ones that defeat the other viruses as well.
So, while treatment or prevention for coronavirus may not have been found, this new research puts us a step closer — one that could be the determining factor in ending the COVID-19 threat.
- Researchers may have uncovered the Achilles heel of viruses — Aarhus University