University of São Paulo: Severe cases of sepsis caused by the coronavirus can be prevented

Researchers at the University of São Paulo find, in a drug already on the market, a new alternative for the treatment of sepsis. In an interview with Jornal da USP in Ar 1st Edition , Professor Fernando de Queiroz Cunha, from the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto (FMRP) at USP, comments on the risks of the disease, enhanced by the pandemic period.


At all times, the human body produces silent inflammatory responses to prevent the circulation of bacteria, fungi and viruses that have been inhaled or ingested in food. Factors such as low immunity, however, decrease the body’s ability to protect and facilitate the passage of microorganisms into the bloodstream. In this situation, “the inflammatory response becomes generalized, a condition known as sepsis,” explains Cunha. In an attempt to control such inflammation, the immune system ends up injuring the body itself.

Sepsis and the coronavirus
Infection with covid-19 can result in a case of sepsis, says the professor. “Coronavirus is indeed capable of generating generalized inflammation, which mainly affects the lung”, he says, and adds: “Our research laboratory started to investigate specific characteristics of covid to then think about possible treatments”.

The study revealed that the coronavirus stimulates the circulation of neutrophils and leukocytes, blood components that release harmful substances into the lungs. Such release can be avoided by inhibiting gasdermin, a molecule that forms pores in the cell membrane in the body. To this end, Professor Cunha reveals that a drug typically used in the treatment of alcohol dependence is effective: the drug Disulfiram.

“We infected mice with covid and treated those that developed sepsis with Disulfiram. It works, the drug had a protective effect in 80% of the cases”, explains Cunha. The discovery could prevent serious complications of sepsis in patients with covid-19, but the doctor highlights that the best way to prevent the generalized inflammatory response is vaccination.

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