A group of Belgian scientists has managed to isolate a type of sugar present in human cells and which the covid-19 virus uses to infect the patient, in a way that would prevent this pathogen from infecting humans, according to the journal Nature Communications published on Tuesday.
Since 2020 it has been known that SARS-CoV-2 interacts with the Spike protein before reaching the ACE2 receptor, in which the infection actually occurs, but this group of scientists from the Universities of Leuven and Namur managed to block contacts between the protein and the virus.
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When the virus approaches a cell, it begins to create a series of bonds that allow it to latch onto it, all the while looking for a way to reach the ACE2 receptor.
“The virus does not immediately hit the ACE2 receptor, it has to first explore the surface of our cells to find the lock“, explained the researcher David Alsteens in statements to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
However, thanks to a series of 9-O-acetylated sugars, scientists have managed to add a second padlock that prevents the virus from accessing the lock that gives way to the long-awaited ACE2 receptor and therefore prevents infection.
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Without the possibility of infecting the cell, the virus dies, at most, in a period of several hours, without having been able to infect any cell or reproduce within the human body, which would make this drug a much more effective system than vaccines, which they prevent the most serious cases, but they do not prevent infection.
This discovery opens the door to the creation of new antivirals that facilitate the complete eradication of the virus, although for the moment its application will begin to be studied in mice and, depending on the results, it will be tested in humans, so it still needs time.
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Alsteens, who was very pleased with the future prospects of the discovery, told Le Soir that this finding could be especially important “to protect against all future variants and find applications with other types of viruses.”