Low Interferon Levels Drive Weak Response to the Virus

By Reuters Staff

May 03, 2021

(Reuters) - People who become critically ill with COVID-19 appear to have lower-than-average levels of interferons, and a new study helps explain why low interferon levels would matter.

Researchers identified 65 genes that are triggered into action by interferons - including some that inhibit the ability of the virus to enter cells and others that suppress manufacture of the virus' genetic material or inhibit its ability to assemble itself - part of the virus replication process.

Eight of the interferon-stimulated genes act not only against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 but also against the SARS-CoV-1 virus that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak, the researchers reported in Molecular Cell.

"The interferon response to SARS-CoV-2 infection relies on a limited subset of ... genes that govern a diverse set of cellular functions," the researchers said.

"We wanted to gain a better understanding of the cellular response to SARS-CoV-2, including what drives a strong or weak response to infection," coauthor Sumit Chanda of Sanford Burnham Prebys in La Jolla, California said in a statement. "We've gained new insights into how the virus exploits the human cells it invades, but we are still searching for its Achilles heel."

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2P8gV7i Molecular Cell, online April 13, 2021.