An illustration of the coronavirus. Courtesy National Institutes of Health

A study released Thursday raises the prospect that drug therapies being used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may help patients recover from coronavirus.

The study, conducted by a consortium of researchers from across the country, found that an enzyme that helps COVID-19 infect the body also plays a role in inflammation in patients with IBD.

“We chose these disorders because COVID-19, while known for attacking the lungs, frequently causes gastrointestinal symptoms,” said Dr. Dermot P. McGovern, the study’s senior author and the Joshua L. and Lisa Z. Greer Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Genetics at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

“It was important for us to understand how COVID-19 might affect IBD patients who are treated with anti-inflammatory medications.”

In patients infected with COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to an enzyme that normally plays a crucial health role by activating a hormone that helps to regulate blood pressure. That reaction causes the infection of cells, “hijacking” them to spread the virus, researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, showed that treatment with the anti-inflammatory drug infliximab normalized the levels of the enzyme, ACE2. It’s associated with improved disease outcomes in IBD patients, according to researchers.

More research is needed to delineate the processes involving the enzyme and what that might mean for treating patients with COVID-19, McGovern said.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $677,000 grant to McGovern to examine overlaps in the mechanisms that drive inflammation in COVID-19 and IBD, according to Cedars-Sinai.

The study’s co-authors include Alka A. Potdar and Shishir Dube, both from Cedars-Sinai.

They were joined by researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Harvard Medical School, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Cleveland Clinic and Janssen Research and Development LLC.

– City News Service

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