Certain drugs used to treat hypertension can also have a positive effect in COVID-19 patients. The Infectiology/Tropical Medicine, Nephrology and Rheumatology Medical Centre at Leipzig’s St. George’s Hospital now wants to examine this in the first controlled clinical study on this subject worldwide. For this project, the hospital will be provided with fundamental scientific support from the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI and mosaiques diagnostics and therapeutics AG, Hanover, Germany, and also from ICCAS of Leipzig University, Germany, since telemedicine support is necessary during quarantine. A study app permits the supra-regional integration of patients and simplifies processes.
Up to 20 percent of the adult German population (approximately 16 million people) are taking these drugs (of the ACE inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker class). In the framework of the project, the Ligand Development working group of Fraunhofer IZI is examining whether there are antibodies in patients’ serums, which, in the event of a COVID-19 infection, block other important molecular structures, in addition to the known AC2 / TMPSSR binding site. Their existence could possibly explain the very different individual courses of the disease. To this end, the researchers are using a technology for examining the microstructure of the binding sites (epitopes) recognised by antibodies. It is based on peptide libraries which are presented on the surface of bacteriophages and on a special type of analysis. This permits the exact identification of the individual epitopes of the virus proteins on the amino acid, which are recognised by the patients’ antibodies. As a result, the research team is considering whether variations in the immune response might be relevant for the course of the illness. This information can help to assign patients in the study to different risk groups and then use them for diagnostics, vaccines or new drugs later on.