Researchers at King’s College London have discovered a new antiviral target to combat COVID-19: the galectin-3-binding protein, or LGALS3BP.
Analysis of around 500 blood samples from COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care unit revealed that during infection, LGALS3BP levels in the lungs were significantly elevated. The scientists found that the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and LGALS3BP may be a novel therapeutic target to help alleviate the life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19.
Additionally, the researchers found that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the blood of COVID-19 patients could be used as a predictive mortality marker. 56 percent of ICU patients who had succumbed to severe COVID-19 symptoms had detectable viral RNA in the blood, compared to just 13 percent of those who survived the infection.
"We report that presence of detectable viral RNA in plasma or serum of COVID-19 patients is associated with increased risk of severe illness. We also highlight a novel interaction with potential antiviral effect between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and a protein called galectin-3-binding protein,” said Manu Shankar Hari, who led the research.
“Our research findings have two main implications. First, there is an unmet diagnostic technology need for near patient tests to identify the presence of viral RNA in blood in COVID-19 patients. Second, our research potentially highlights an antiviral drug target, which is a priority area highlighted within the UK government's launch of a COVID-19 antivirals Taskforce."