How COVID-19 differs from other infectious lung diseases at cell level decoded

Corona Virus

Using advanced analysis tools, scientists have revealed at single-cell resolution, how the novel coronavirus infection affects lung tissue in severe cases, compared to other diseases which affect the organ, an advance which will cause the development-of-latest therapeutics against COVID-19.

In the study, published-in journal Nature, scientists analysed over 6,50,000 cells from patients who had died of severe COVID-19, acute bacterial pneumonia, or bacterial or influenza-related acute respiratory distress syndrome, and from those-who had no lung disease.

The findings confirmed that cells called alveolar epithelial cells, which mediate gas exchange function within the lungs, are the first targets of infection by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

“COVID-19 may be a complex disease, and that we still don’t understand exactly what it does to so-many of organs, but with this study we were ready to develop a way clearer understanding of its effects on the lungs,” said study co-author Olivier Elemento from Weill Cornell Medicine in US.

Based on the analysis, the scientists said infected cells aren’t solely singled out for attack by lung-infiltrating immune cells, which could explain why inflammation often keeps worsening in severe COVID-19 and finishes up causing such extensive and comparatively indiscriminate damage.

According to the researchers, white blood cells called macrophages are far more abundant within the lungs of severe COVID-19 patients compared to other lung diseases, whereas white blood cells called neutrophils are most prevalent in bacterial pneumonia.

“The application of technology like what we’ve demonstrated here goes to-provide an enormous boost to the utility of autopsy-based studies of disease,” said study co-senior author Alain Borczuk, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The scientists believe the-distinction between different infection pathologies revealed by the study may help in-evelopment of future treatments for these diseases.

“Traditionally for lung, liver, and other organ diseases we’ve these broad diagnoses that actually cover multiple distinct diseases — now we’ve a tool which will enable us routinely to differentiate among these different diseases, and hopefully make use of these distinctions in treating patients more effectively,” said Robert Schwartz, another coauthor of the study from Weill Cornell Medicine.

This research first reported on The Economic Times

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