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SARS-CoV-2 variants have developed resistance to human interferons

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have investigated how antiviral proteins called interferons interact with SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, focuses on how the innate arm of the immune system defends against this coronavirus. The work resulted from a collaborative effort by multiple scientists, including the laboratories of Mario Santiago, PhD, associate professor of medicine and Eric Poeschla, MD, professor of medicine, both at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

While the adaptive arm of the immune system responds definitively to infection by generating antibodies and T cells, the innate arm forms an earlier, first line of defense by recognising conserved molecular patterns in pathogens. “SARS-CoV-2 just recently crossed the species barrier into humans and continues to adapt to its new host,” commented Poeschla. “Much attention has deservedly focused on the virus’s serial evasions of neutralising antibodies. The virus seems to be adapting to evade innate responses as well.”

Interferons are central molecules in the innate immune system that trigger a cascade of antiviral responses in cells within minutes of infection. As such, the interferon pathway could significantly reduce the levels of virus initially produced by an infected individual.

“They are clinically viable therapeutic agents that have been studied for viruses like HIV-1 for years,” commented Santiago. “Here we looked at up to 17 different human interferons and found that some interferons, such as IFNalpha8, more strongly inhibited SARS-CoV-2. Importantly, later variants of the virus have developed significant resistance to their antiviral effects. For example, substantially more interferon would be needed to inhibit the omicron variant than the strains isolated during the earliest days of the pandemic.”

The data suggests that COVID-19 clinical trials on interferons – dozens of which are listed in clinicaltrials.gov – may need to be interpreted based on which variants were circulating when the study was conducted. Researchers say that future work to decipher which of SARS-CoV-2’s multitude of proteins might be evolving to confer interferon resistance may contribute in that direction.

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Upcoming Events

AfPP Annual Conference 2022

University of York
8-11 September 2022

Infection 360: What's trending in infection prevention & control

Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham
27-28 September 2022

IP2022 IS COMING TO BOURNEMOUTH IN OCTOBER 2022

Bournemouth
17-19 October 2022

UKHCA Conference: Listen Up

Pendulum Hotel and Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester
3rd November 2022

MEDICA 2022

Dusseldorf Germany
14th November - 17th November

Future Surgery 2022

ExCel, London
15th - 16th November 2022

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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