Pangolins may possess evolutionary advantage against coronavirus, says study

WION Web Team
New York, New York, United States of America Published: May 08, 2020, 02:03 PM(IST)

Pangolins Photograph:( AFP )

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The researchers believe that the finding is significant since pangolins can be carriers of coronavirus while they also seem to tolerate it via an unknown mechanism.

Pangolins possess an evolutionary advantage against coronavirus, and researchers say that understanding their immune system may help develop new treatment options for COVID-19.

According to the scientists from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, certain genes sense when a virus enters the body, and trigger an immune response in most mammals.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

It suggests that pangolins, which were believed to have carried the novel coronavirus from bats to humans, lack two of those virus-sensing genes.

The researchers believe that the finding is significant since pangolins can be carriers of coronavirus while they also seem to tolerate it via an unknown mechanism.

Understanding this evolutionary advantage may point to possible treatment options for coronavirus in humans.

In the study, the scientists analysed the genome sequence of pangolins and compared it to other mammals including humans, cats, dogs, and cattle.

In humans, coronavirus can cause an inflammatory immune response called a cytokine storm, which worsens outcomes.

While pharmaceutical suppression of gene signaling could be a possible treatment option for severe cases of COVID-19, Eckhart cautioned though that such a remedy could open the door to secondary infections.

According to Eckhart, this can be done by reducing the intensity or by changing the timing of the human body's defense reaction.

While the study identified genetic differences between pangolins and other mammals, the scientists said they did not investigate the impact of those differences on the antiviral response.

The scientists believe that the study offers a starting point to better understand the characteristics of the novel coronavirus, the body's response, and the best options for treatment.

(with inputs from PTI)

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