It's a little bit of circular logic, but logic nonetheless that might be able to treat humans of the disease Covid-19 that swept the globe. I covered this topic in the past in my blog titled: "Bats Can Transmit Covid-19 to Humans Via The Intermediate Host Pangolin." This animal with a strange name and equally strange appearance were found to be the only animal to date that can transfer the disease to humans.
Today's news indicates that this same animal might be able to now help treat those affected.
The Pangolin's Peculiar Medicine
Pangolins have a unique immune response to Covid-19 that helps it stay safe from the disease, even though it can be a carrier that can link the disease from bats to humans.
Bats have a diminished immune response to many viruses. That's why they are a particularly good virus-host: They can carry a virus without getting too sick.
New research indicates if researchers are able to mimic pangolins make-up, humans may be treated in the future. This study was published this week in Frontiers in Immunology.
Pangolins can tolerate coronavirus, regardless of the fact they are missing the antiviral defense used by most other animals.
"We found that, like bats, pangolins have a genetic defect in the response to several viruses probably including coronaviruses," corresponding author Leopold Eckhart, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna, tells Inverse.
Specifically, pangolins lack two genes that prompt an immune response. More needs to be learned about how this deficiency works.
These symbiotic relationships are important for people. The ways some human's immune systems respond to Covid-19 can be the reason they get sick.
Cytokines are small proteins, which communicate between cells in the body and are involved in subsequent inflammation.
When a cytokine storm hits, a person's immune system overproduces immune cells and cytokines. In turn, the storm can overburden the body, and in some cases, damage the lungs, cause blood clots, or even lead to death. Hence the fear most humans have about this pandemic.
The response indeed "causes more harm than the virus itself," Eckhart tells Inverse. And while this kind of response isn't the norm, it could occur in as many as 15 percents of Covid-19 patients.
The Pangolin's Defense
The reason pangolins don't have the same response as humans is a clarion call for humans. This means in order for them to have survived millions of years, they most likely had some other, yet-unknown, natural defense.
"We believe that pangolins have another effective way to cope with virus infections," Eckhart says. "This so-far unknown response may be interesting for the development of new treatments of patients with viral infections."
Ongoing medical trials looked at the possibility of using drugs that suppress a specific cytokine, which could help treat certain cases of Covid-19. Meanwhile, research published this past April looked at whether cytokine storms are driving the severity of Covid-19 in patients with other conditions, like diabetes.
However, researchers have more work to do. "We do not know yet if our findings can help to find new treatment," Eckhart says.
More to do . . .
Eckhart believes more research can provide further evidence in this regard. He hopes to see more research on the antiviral defense in pangolins, bats, and other animals, comparing those responses to humans.
"I think we can still get many new insights that could be relevant for medicine," Eckhart says.
After all, pangolins' meat is already being used to help humans in Sierra Leone. Consumption of this meat is said to aid with stomach disorders, rheumatism, epilepsy, high blood pressure, body pain, common childhood diseases, convulsions, and anemia.
Wouldn't it be ironic if the animal, which can transfer the disease to humans is the animal to help humans counter the disease? It's that circular logic, we're all hoping can circle back with a viable treatment — and better yet — a cure.
Primary Source: Inverse