Getting very ill with COVID-19 is like getting bitten by a poisonous rattlesnake, according to a new medical study.
Researchers including from Stony Brook University on Long Island have identified an enzyme in the coronavirus that ravages the body like the neurotoxins from rattlesnake venom, according to the analysis published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Targeting the enzyme, which causes severe inflammation, could better treat and save the lives of COVID-19 patients amid the virus’ resurgence with the Delta variant, said the study’s scientists from the SUNY school, the University of Arizona and Wake Forest University.
The coronavirus enzyme, sPLA2-II, has similarities to an active enzyme in rattlesnake venom that is typically found in low concentrations in healthy individuals and has long been known to play a critical role in humans’ defense against bacterial infections, the study says.
But when the same enzyme circulates at high levels, it can “shred” the membranes of vital organs, said University of Arizona’s Floyd “Ski” Chilton, a senior author of the paper.
“The study supports a new therapeutic target to reduce or even prevent COVID-19 mortality,” explained co-author Doctor Maurizio Del Poeta of Stony Brook’s Renaissance School of Medicine.
“Because inhibitors of sPLA2-IIA already exist, our study supports the use of these inhibitors in patients with elevated levels of sPLA2-IIA to reduce, or even prevent, COVID-19 mortality.”
Del Poeta said Chilton contacted Stony Brook to analyze blood samples in COVID-19 patients to study the snake venom-type enzyme.
Dr. Del Poeta and his team, co-led by him and research assistant Jeehyun Karen You, collected stored blood plasma samples and analyzed medical charts from 127 patients hospitalized at Stony Brook University Hospital between January and July 2020.
A collection of 154 patient samples from Stony Brook and Banner University Medical Center in Tucson between January and November 2020 also were examined.
“Our study is especially timely given how the Delta variant is contributing to rising COVID-19 incidence and hospitalization rates both in the US and worldwide,” You said.
As of Friday, 55,453 people have died from COVID-19 in New York state, according to data provided to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As the Delta variant makes its way through communities across the country, it’s crucial we keep doing everything we can to keep each other safe from the COVID virus,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement Sunday.
“Wear a mask, and, if you haven’t already, get your vaccine as soon as you can. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”
Hochul and the state Health Department issued a mandate Friday requiring staff and students in public and private schools to wear masks for the new academic year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The DOH last week also approved an emergency rule requiring virtually all 450,000 healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings to get the coronavirus vaccine — or face disciplinary action including getting fired.
Meanwhile 634,157 people were killed by the coronavirus throughout the United States.