Specific sugars that are used in clinics as blood thinners are able to block infection with the coronavirus and its spread. Researchers from Amsterdam UMC have shown that the virus has to bind to so-called heparan sulfates in order to cause infection. Blood thinners stop this bonding, the hospital reports.

Also interesting: Our COVID-19 dossier.

This pre-clinical study was published today in the EMBO Journal. Research is currently underway to determine whether it is possible to develop an inhaler against infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers Marta Bermejo-Jambrina and Julia Eder, under the direction of Theo Geijtenbeek, discovered that heparan sulfates are implicated in infection with the coronavirus. These sugar structures are found on all cells of the body. The researchers demonstrated that the virus first binds to these, then infects the cells. Furthermore, by using these sugar structures, it “sticks” to immune cells that circulate in the body, spreading throughout the body that way. So it turns out that the coronavirus uses heparan sulfates to infect and spread further.

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    Small sugars

    The researchers found that this interaction is prevented by small fragments of heparan sulfates, called low-molecular-weight-heparins. These are used in clinics as blood thinners. Treatment of the virus with these blood thinners prevents the coronavirus from penetrating the epithelial cells through the nose and spreading to other cells. The researchers claim that these blood thinners can be used to prevent infection with the coronavirus.

    Researchers from the Experimental Immunology Laboratory work on the research with the blood thinners and the coronavirus.

    Inhaler

    These kinds of blood thinners have long been used to treat blood clots in thrombosis, strokes and infarctions. It is currently being studied whether an oral and nasal inhaler of low-molecular-weight-heparins can prevent infection with the coronavirus. Because this concerns a general mechanism of infection, these blood thinners could block different variants of the virus according to the researchers. It is possible that high-risk groups for whom vaccination does not work could benefit from this. This new method could also be used in the event of an outbreak of new virus variants for which no vaccines are available or for which current vaccines are insufficiently effective.

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