Cell response to new coronavirus unveils possible paths to treatments

This is the transmission electron micrograph of novel coronavirus. Credit: NIAID/RML

NIH-supported scientists used lab-grown human lung cells to study the cells' response to infection by a novel human coronavirus (called nCoV) and compiled information about which genes are significantly disrupted in early and late stages of infection. The information about host response to nCoV allowed the researchers to predict drugs that might be used to inhibit either the virus itself or the deleterious responses that host cells make in reaction to infection. Since nCoV was recognized in 2012, 17 confirmed cases and 11 deaths have been reported—a high fatality rate that is spurring urgent research efforts to better understand the virus and its effects.

The investigators, led by Michael G. Katze, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, compared cellular gene expression responses to two viruses: the novel coronavirus and a coronavirus that caused a global outbreak of (SARS) in 2003. Although the viruses are in the same family, their effects on are vastly different. In general, nCoV disrupted a greater number of human genes more profoundly and at more time points after infection than the SARS coronavirus. The team identified one set of 207 human genes whose expression differed from normal soon after infection with nCoV and remained disrupted throughout the course of infection. Notably, nCoV down-regulated the activity of a group of genes involved in signaling the presence of an invading virus to the immune system. Such down-regulation may cause a delay in the infection-fighting response.

The researchers used computational approaches to determine that certain classes of drugs, including specific kinase inhibitors and one type of glucocorticoid, act on some of the 207 human genes whose expression was found to be disrupted by nCoV. The team hypothesized that treatment with such drugs might block nCoV replication and disease progression in the host. In their current study, they tested this hypothesis using a kinase inhibitor on nCoV-infected cells grown in test tubes. They found that the drug did inhibit the ability of the virus to replicate. Additional studies are needed to see if kinase inhibitors could be useful alone or in combination with other drugs to treat nCoV infection in people.

More information: L Josset et al. Cell host response to infection with novel human coronavirus EMC predicts potential antivirals and important differences with SARS coronavirus. mBio DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00165-13 (2013)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Saudi death from SARS-like virus, WHO reports

Mar 12, 2013

A SARS-like virus that has struck in Britain and the Middle East has claimed a new victim in Saudi Arabia, bringing the global toll from the mystery illness to nine, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.

New death from SARS-like virus in Saudi, WHO reports

Feb 21, 2013

Another person suffering from a SARS-like virus has died in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization said Thursday, bringing the worldwide number of fatalities from the mystery illness to seven.

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone: WHO too slow to help doc with Ebola

5 hours ago

Sierra Leone accused the World Health Organization on Monday of being "sluggish" in facilitating an evacuation of a doctor who died from Ebola before she could be sent out of the country for medical care.

Dutch doctors feared to have Ebola leave hospital

5 hours ago

Two Dutch doctors flown home from west Africa after fears they might have been contaminated with the killer Ebola virus have left hospital "in good health," their employer, the Lion Heart Medical Centre, said Monday.

Strategic self-sabotage? MRSA inhibits its own growth

10 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have uncovered a bacterial mystery. Against all logic, the most predominant strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in North American produces an enzyme ...

US works to step up Ebola aid, but is it enough?

12 hours ago

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: Step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal ...

User comments