Phoenix, AZ

Researcher from University of Arizona involved in a study of an enzyme that leads to COVID-19 mortality

Alistair Dominguez

PHOENIX, AZ - Researchers from the University of Arizona or UA, partnering with Stony Brook University and Wake Forest School of Medicine have conducted a new study on a particular enzyme that plays a role to cause more severe inflammation.

The enzyme is called sPLA2-IIA, a secreted enzyme from phospholipase A2 group IIA. This enzyme has resemblances with an active enzyme in rattlesnake venom.

The study is now published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Floyd “Ski” Chilton, the senior author of the paper and the director of the UA Precision Nutrition and Wellness Initiative in the UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that the enzyme has the ability to break membranes of vital organs if it is secreted at high levels.

The researchers studied blood samples from two COVID-19 patients groups. The first group consists of 127 patients at Stony Brook University Hospital between January and July 2020 while the second group consists of a mix of 154 patients from Stony Brook and Banner University Medical Center between January and November 2020.

Chilton said that the enzyme is initially trying to kill the virus, but at some point, it is secreted in higher amounts and tends to destroy a patient’s cell membranes as well. This condition then leads to organ failures and even death.

Chilton also added that the protein included in the enzyme shares similarities in homology to the active enzyme in rattlesnake venom. Like the venom, this enzyme is also capable to tie the neuromuscular junction receptors and disable those muscle’s functions.

In comparison, a healthy person has only half a nanogram per milliliter of the sPLA2-IIA inside its bloodstream. Meanwhile, 63 percent of cases of COVID-19 cases that ended in death have more than 10 nanograms per milliliter of the sPLA2-IIA enzyme.

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