Covid-19: what is calprotectin, this protein that plays a role in severe forms?

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According to the Ministry of Health, a patient with Covid-19 infects at least three people in the absence of barrier gestures. The virus can cause high temperature, cough, diarrhea, shortness of breath, or loss of taste and smell. Patients affected by severe forms may show serious respiratory problems and be placed on artificial respiration.

In a new study, published in the journal The Cell, researchers have identified the presence of calprotectin, a pro-inflammatory protein in patients affected by acute forms of coronavirus. According to the results of the work, detecting an increase in the level of calprotectin in the blood would make it possible to identify severe cases of Covid-19 more quickly.

Covid-19: can calprotectin identify severe forms?

The research was carried out by French researchers and doctors from Gustave Roussy, Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris AP-HP, Inserm, the University of Paris-Saclay and the University of Paris. They also worked in collaboration with foreign teams from Singapore, China and Israel.

For the purposes of the study, scientists analyzed blood samples from 158 individuals admitted to the emergency room on suspicion of Covid-19. The patients were tested by PCR: 78 were negative for the virus and 86 positive with the three degrees of severity of the disease (mild, moderate, severe).

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In patients with severe forms, researchers found a very high level of calprotectin, 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal. Another observation: they also had a deficit of myeloid cells, white blood cells that would cause a dysfunction of the immune response.

A new therapeutic approach to fight the coronavirus

“Our results suggest that calprotectin could be responsible for the worsening of Covid-19, since its amount correlates with oxygen requirements as well as the factors involved in thrombosis. The sharp increase in calprotectin in the blood could occur before the ‘orage cytokinique associated with inflammatory runaway in patients developing a severe form “, Aymeric Silvin, researcher in immunology and lead author of the study, explained in a press release from Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris.

According to the researchers, their findings “make it possible to consider new therapeutic strategies to counter the worsening of Covid-19 “. In particular, they considered a medical approach that would consist of blocking the calprotectin receptor, but clinical trials are needed.

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A high level of calprotectin and a deficit of certain white blood cells are therefore two markers which can therefore indicate serious forms of Covid-19. In case of suspicion of infection, the scientists suggested having them analyzed in order to identify upstream patients affected by an acute form of coronavirus.

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