Aussie researchers find key to treating chronic inflammation in severe COVID-19

Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) are one step closer to finding treatments for the prevention of inflammation in severe COVID-19, after completing a new study into how immune cells respond to the virus.

The study, published in the Science Signaling journal in April, has revealed that the majority of immune cells, which contributed to chronic inflammation, are not infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Larisa Labzin, first author of the study and UQ's research fellow, said on Wednesday that these uninfected cells, called macrophages, identify damage and death in neighboring cells and trigger a significant inflammatory response, rather than setting off a "protective response to eliminate the disease."

"There is an imbalance in the immune response because most macrophages are not infected with the virus," Labzin said. "We end up with too many immune cells coming to the site of infection causing a whole lot of collateral damage – too much inflammation and not enough virus fighting."

"It's a double-edged sword for the body: the immune system tackling an infectious disease early on is protective, but when it's prolonged or excessive, it can really drive chronic inflammation," she added.

Currently working on how to target macrophages selectively, the research team hopes to find a method of doing so without jeopardizing the body's ability to fight the virus, in a bid to reduce the occurrence of severe COVID-19.

With this new information on macrophages, the researchers also aim to develop anti-inflammatory drugs that can be taken in the earlier stages of the infection, to prevent severe inflammation.

(Cover via CFP)

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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