One protein leads to a severe course after a corona infection –
02/22/2021 8:14 am
Some people who become infected with the coronavirus hardly notice anything. Others become seriously ill and have to be hospitalized.
The reason for this is often still unclear. Doctors at the University Hospital Erlangen have now been able to identify a crucial clue in their patients’ blood: the messenger substance “interleukin-3”.
Inflammation in the body
The team around Georg Weber, Deputy Clinic Director of Surgery, and Alan Bénard’s colleague are fundamentally concerned with the mechanisms of the immune system in inflammatory and malignant diseases.
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In rheumatoid arthritis, for example, it helps to inhibit the messenger substance “interleukin 6” so that the joints do not deteriorate any further and new bones are even formed. By influencing “Interleukin 17” or 23, the medical profession is able to cure psoriasis, an inflammation of the skin. Interleukin-1 antibodies help against gout.
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Now the number three has moved into the focus of researchers. In a study, they were able to prove that a low interleukin-3 level in the blood plasma is often associated with a severe course of Covid-19 disease.
The messenger substance influences the reaction of the immune system.
It stimulates the cells to produce a certain protein at the point of inflammation in the body, such as in the lungs in the case of pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. “This protein ‘lures’ immune cells into the inflamed lungs, where they curb the replication of the virus causing it,” explains Weber.
Immunotherapy for the lungs
If there is a lot of interleukin-3 in the blood, the body can defend itself better. Those who have little of it tend to get sick more seriously. “Up to now, this assessment could only be based on far more coarse criteria – such as age or certain previous illnesses,” the researchers write.
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A blood test could now show how high the risk is so that doctors can react faster. “Even people who do not belong to any risk group may have little interleukin-3 in their blood,” explains Weber.
In the long term, it is also conceivable to develop an immunotherapy with interleukin-3 in order to precisely protect the lungs from being infected by viruses.