A protein produced by the body against inflammation could play an important role in severe forms of COVID-19, and targeting it could therefore help fight the worsening of the disease, according to a study conducted by French researchers.
According to this work, published Thursday in the journal Cell, there is “a very high level” – 100 to 1000 times more than normal – of this protein, calprotectin, in patients with a severe form of COVID-19.
“Our results suggest that calprotectin may be responsible for the worsening of COVID-19,” the study’s lead author, immunology researcher Aymeric Silvin, said in a statement.
Much work around the world seeks to better understand the mechanisms of the “cytokine storm”, an uncontrolled and excessive inflammatory reaction involved in severe forms of COVID-19.
“The large increase in calprotectin in the blood could occur before the cytokine storm associated with the inflammatory runaway in patients developing a severe form,” continued Aymeric Silvin.
In theory, we could therefore perhaps identify patients at risk of developing a severe form of the disease, by testing the level of calprotectin in their blood, according to the press release from the French organizations behind this research (Gustave Roussy, AP -HP, Inserm), in collaboration with foreign teams (Singapore, China, Israel). In addition, this lead could offer “a novel therapeutic approach”, since blocking the calprotectin receptor could help fight the aggravation.
“These strategies are to be evaluated by clinical trials”, according to the press release.
The study relied on analysis of blood samples from 158 patients admitted to the emergency room with suspected COVID-19. In the most affected patients, in addition to the high level of calprotectin, the tests revealed abnormal functioning of some white blood cells, which seems to weaken the immune response.
Performing analyzes on these two markers when a patient is admitted could therefore help identify the risks of severe forms upstream.
“The early diagnosis of a severe form of COVID-19 can be made on a blood tube,” hoped another of the researchers, Professor Michaela Fontenay, head of the biological hematology service at Cochin hospital in Paris, cited in the press release.
Hugues Louissaint is an entrepreneur and writer, living in the US for over a decade. He has launched successful products such the Marabou Coffee brand, which has been highly successful in Florida. He has also been a writer for more than 5 years focusing on science, technology, and health. He writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and provides valuable input on a wide range of subjects.