Exotic animals known as “ pangolins ” who have been accused of first transmitting bat coronavirus to humans could be immune to the deadly disease, study finds
- Pangolins lack virus-detecting genes that normally trigger an immune response
- This means that they can carry the virus without necessarily suffering from it
- However, researchers do not know how, then, mammals survive the infection.
- Nevertheless, they may hold the key to helping humans defeat the coronavirus.
- How to Help People Affected by Covid-19
Pangolins – animals accused of first transmitting bat coronavirus to humans – could be immune to the deadly disease, study finds.
This means that pangolins – who don’t have two virus-detecting genes, which means they can carry the virus without necessarily suffering – can hold the key to beating COVID-19.
Working in a similar way to a smoke detector, these genes detect when a virus enters the body and sets off the alarm, triggering an immune response.
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Pangolins – animals accused of first transmitting bat coronavirus to humans – may be immune to deadly disease, study finds
One popular theory for the coronavirus is that it went from a pangolin to a human in a wet market in Wuhan, a wildlife market that sold live exotic animals.
Studying the theory, the researchers analyzed the pangolin genome sequence and compared it to other mammals – including humans, cats, dogs, and cattle.
“Our work shows that pangolins have survived millions of years of evolution without a type of antiviral defense that is used by all other mammals,” said the author of the article Leopold Eckhart, from the University Vienna medical center.
“More studies on pangolins will discover how they manage to survive viral infections, which could help design new treatment strategies for people with viral infections.”
In humans, COVID-19 can cause an inflammatory immune response – called a cytokine storm – that worsens the patient’s condition.
Pharmaceutical suppression of genetic signaling, suggest the authors, may be a possible treatment option for severe cases
However, Dr. Eckhart warned that such an approach could open the door to secondary infections.
“The main challenge is to reduce the response to the pathogen while maintaining sufficient control of the virus,” he said.
An overactive immune system can be moderated, added Dr. Eckhart, “by reducing the intensity or changing the timing of the defense reaction.”
Pangolins – who don’t have a virus-detecting gene, which means they can carry the virus without necessarily suffering – may hold the key to beating COVID-19
Although the study identified genetic differences between pangolins and other mammals, it did not study the impact of these differences on the antiviral response.
Scientists don’t yet understand exactly how pangolins survive the coronavirus, but only that their lack of these two signaling genes may have something to do with it.
The full results of the study were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.