“Vanguard Virus Fighter” Fails in Severe Cases

An elderly man is wheeled out of a nursing home on April 2, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Image: Sean Gallup/Getty
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An elderly man is wheeled out of a nursing home on April 2, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Image: Sean Gallup/Getty

Big news: A pair of new papers confirm scientists’ hunch that the body’s “vanguard virus fighter”—type I interferon—is out of action in severe COVID-19 cases.
 
The papers found that in some of the sickest patients, the interferon response was hampered by genetic flaws, or under attack from “rogue antibodies.”
 
Another telling finding: Men—who have been harder-hit by COVID-19 than women—made up 94% of patients with the interferon-attacking antibodies.
 
Immediate implications:

  • Synthetic interferons may help at-risk patients.

  • Testing for the damaging antibodies could help spot high-risk individuals.

  • Potential convalescent plasma donors found to harbor these antibodies should be ruled out.

Science

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