The war with Covid-19 seems unending and with the graph constantly rising and falling, scientists are always on the lookout for new ways to tackle the virus. Recently, researchers are focussing on the importance of the nose and how its interference might help solve the problem. They are considering that therapeutic intervention into the nasal and throat epithelial cells, the ones that form the outer lining of all body tissues and organ systems, could be a preventive measure in mitigating the severity of the disease.
A study conducted by the Boston Childrens’ Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, compared nose and throat samples of healthy individuals with those affected by SARS-CoV-2. 58 volunteers participated in this study. 35 of them varied from having mild to severe symptoms of Covid-19. The nasal swabs of these individuals were collected, who had symptoms between April and September 2020. Two of them had Covid earlier and six patients were kept in intensive care units but later tested negative for the infections.
Researches Find New Hope In Treating Covid Cases: The Role Of Nose
The study showed that the nasal passages had a lesser number of matured, ciliated epithelial cells in infected people when compared to their healthy counterparts. Even the number of immature ciliated cells was more, which had been there probably to compensate for the lesser number of mature cells. The mucus-secreting cells were also more in the virus-infected cases.
Considering from the genetic point of view, it was found that in infected cells, the genes involved in anti-viral responses, were turned on compared to the healthy cells. However, the effects on the cells depended on the severity of the disease. Researchers found that with mild infections, these genes were responsive but as the degree of infection increased, it decreased their ability to produce the protective responses. However, the inflammatory response was high in such cases. It is, thus, opined by a few, that high inflammatory responses bear a positive correlation with severe Covid symptoms.
Dr. Christopher Coleman, Assistant Professor of Infection Immunology at The University of Nottingham, UK, explained further that the innate immune systems of humans bear components called interferons. These are a group of signaling proteins that are released in response to foreign bodies like viruses. They are so named as they interfere with the replication processes of the virus thus protecting the host cells. In case of a viral attack, these interferons are blocked besides other lines of defense and deactivated by the viral proteins. Hence, the protection rendered by the interferons is low, providing lesser immunity to the infected cells.
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Dr. José Ordovás-Montañés of Boston Children’s Hospital, co-senior investigator of this study said that it’s quite puzzling as to why some people fall sicker than others. Since the interferon responses are low in severe cases, it might be inferred that the necessary amount of these protein-producing units could actually deal with the deadly virus.
A virologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, UK, Dr. Jonathan Stoye, said that this study is consistent with earlier findings on interferons and how they work. The study focussing on nasopharyngeal infections can produce promising results in dealing with Covid. Further studies are required that can investigate how interferon responses can be enhanced by nasal sprays or drops to prevent viral infections.
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