Instead of replacing the protein itself, the researchers plan to supply mRNA that would instruct the body in making the normal, healthy version of the protein, said David Lockhart, ReCodes president and chief science officer.
None of these drugs are in clinical trials yet.
That leaves patients like Nicholas Kelly waiting for better treatment options.
“No one wants to be hospitalized,” said Kelly, who lives in Cleveland. “If something could reduce my symptoms even 10%, I would try it.”
Prediction of which Covid patients are most likely to die
Similarly, funding for AIDS research has benefited patients with a variety of diseases, said Dr. Carlos del Rio, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. Studies of HIV led to the development of better drugs against hepatitis C and cytomegalovirus or CMV; paved the way for successful immunotherapies in cancer; and accelerated the development of covid vaccines.
“We had never dreamed that we could get a PCR test that could be performed anywhere other than a laboratory,” James said. “Now we can make them by a patient’s bed in rural Oklahoma. It could help us with quick tests for other diseases.”
The discovery of interferon-targeted antibodies “certainly changed my way of thinking at a broad level,” said E. John Wherry, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Immunology, who was not involved in the studies. “This is a paradigm shift in immunology and in covid.”
The discovery “goes far beyond the impact of covid-19,” Michelson said. “These findings may have implications for the treatment of patients with other infectious diseases” such as influenza.
Bastard and colleagues have also found that one-third of patients with dangerous reactions to yellow fever have autoantibodies to interferon.
International research teams are now looking for such autoantibodies in patients hospitalized by other viral infections, including chickenpox, influenza, measles, respiratory syncytial virus, and others.
Today, it is clear that coronavirus – and all respiratory viruses – are spread through a combination of droplets and aerosols, said Dr. Michael Klompas, professor at Harvard Medical School and infectious disease physician.
“It’s not either / or,” Klompas said. “We have created this artificial dichotomy about how we think about these viruses. But we always emit a mixture of both” when we breathe, cough and sneeze.
It is important to know that respiratory viruses are commonly spread through the air because it can help health authorities protect the public. For example, high-quality masks, such as N95 respirators, provide much better protection against airborne viruses than fabric masks or surgical masks. Improving ventilation so that the air in a room is completely replaced at least four to six times an hour is another important way to control airborne viruses.
Still, Klompas said, there is no guarantee the country will handle the next outbreak better than this. “Will we do a better job of fighting the flu because of what we’ve learned?” said Klompas. “I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.”
Fighting chronic disease
Lauren Nichols, 32, remembers exactly when she developed her first covid symptoms: March 10, 2020.
It was the beginning of a disease that has plagued her for almost two years, with no end in sight. Although Nichols was healthy before she developed what has become known as “long covid”, she handles dizziness, headaches and debilitating fatigue, which get significantly worse after exercise. She has had shingles – a painful rash caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus – four times since her covid infection.
In fact, research suggests that “the two conditions are one and the same,” said Dr. Avindra Nath, clinical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health. The biggest difference is that people with long-term covid know which virus caused their illness, while the exact virus behind most cases of chronic fatigue is unknown, Nath said.
“Anything that shows promise in long-term covid will be tested immediately in ME / CFS,” said Jarred Younger, director of the Neuroinflammation, Pain and Fatigue Laboratory at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
“There’s a lot of frustration about being written off by the medical community, being told that it’s all in one’s head, that they should just see a psychiatrist or go to the gym,” said Dr. David Systrom, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
That kind of ignorance seems to be waning, mainly due to growing awareness of long-term covid, said Emily Taylor, vice president of advocacy and engagement at Solve ME, an advocacy group for people with post-infectious chronic diseases. Although some doctors still refuse to believe that prolonged covid is a real disease, “they are drowning in the patient’s voices,” Taylor said.
“In a very dark cloud,” said Nichols, “a silver that comes out of long covid is that we have been compelled to recognize how real and serious these conditions are.”
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Together with policy analysis and opinion polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a gifted nonprofit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.