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How COVID-19 evades the body’s immune ‘Alarm System’

A scientist talks about her research showing how COVID-19 sneaks by the immune system's first line of defense.
Credit: File image

Scientists are learning more about COVID-19 every day. One recent study sheds some light on how the virus manipulates and evades the immune system as soon as someone is infected.

“I sometimes compare it with an alarm system in our house. So basically the invader, in this case the COVID-19 virus, disables the alarm system in the house and thereby can freely replicate in the human body and spread,” said Michaela Gack, PhD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Research and Innovation Center.

Her team found that one of the enzymes inside COVID-19 disables a key sensor protein in the body. This sensor protein typically alerts the immune system within minutes of detecting a viral invader, but COVID-19 shuts it down.

Dr. Gack said most viruses try to inhibit the immune system but each does so differently.

She adds COVID-19’s evasion technique appears to be unique. It also provides a target for developing therapies to fight the virus.

“Targeting this enzyme of COVID -19 of the virus would actually on the one hand directly block the virus, but it would also restore or even boost our immune system. So it would have this dual function, what I believe, could be very beneficial in terms of therapeutics,” explained Dr. Gack.

She and her research team are currently looking into broad spectrum antivirals that not only target COVID-19, but the entire family of coronaviruses, including SARS, MERS and the common cold. 

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