Researchers from the University of Queensland, led by Dr. Larisa Labzin and Professor Kate Schroder from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, have made progress in developing a treatment to prevent the excessive inflammation that occurs in severe COVID-19 patients. Their study revealed that most immune cells contributing to chronic inflammation are not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, uninfected cells called macrophages detect damage and death in neighboring cells and trigger a strong inflammatory response.
The researchers are investigating how to selectively target macrophages to reduce the incidence of severe COVID without compromising the body’s ability to fight the virus.
Currently, anti-inflammatory drugs are given to hospitalized COVID-19 patients after the virus has peaked, but they make patients susceptible to secondary infections. With the new understanding of how macrophages work, the researchers aim to design anti-inflammatories that can be administered earlier to prevent inflammation from getting out of control. Professor Schroder emphasized that understanding more of the immune system’s fundamental biology will help us fight infections more effectively, including future pandemics and infections. The study was published in Science Signaling.
Source: University of Queensland