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USC Researchers Have A New Theory About How To Treat COVID-19

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This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. (NIAID-RML)
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Our immune system launches two different waves of attack against viruses:

  • The first is a generalized self-defense that kicks in as soon as a foreign body is detected.
  • Days later, our immune system adapts and makes cells tailor-made to kill the virus.

USC immunologists are now theorizing that suppressing the immune system may help the body fight off COVID-19.
USC Keck School of Medicine researcher Sean Du said that's because COVID-19 is a particularly slow-moving disease. And that might mean our immune responses come in too early to kill the virus off completely. Instead, he said our responses:

"slow down the infection and then keep [it] going for a much longer time"

He says this may explain why some people feel better for a few days before their symptoms worsen.

The theory has only been tested with a mathematical model, but Du says delaying the body's reaction with immunosuppression therapy may actually help defeat the virus. And that could also have lasting benefits. He told us:

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“It'll keep some of the antibodies for a very long time, so that will kill off the infection even before it takes hold.”

The study, which was peer reviewed, was published late last week in the Journal of Medical Virology.

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