Infection Target

September 8, 2020

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Anchor lead: Tissue in your nose may be the first site Sars-CoV2 binds to, Elizabeth Tracey reports

ACE2 is the acronym for the site on cells Sars-CoV2 uses to bind and then infect them. Now research by Andrew Lane, an otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, has shown that the very specific area of the nose where cells responsible for the sensation of smell reside – called the olfactory epithelium -  may also be where the coronavirus goes first.

Lane: We did staining to find the location of this ACE2 protein. We were surprised to see it was hundreds-fold, somewhere between 200 and 700 times more expressed on the part of the cell facing outwards into the environment. That’s where all this ACE2 is, so it gives you a possible explanation for why the olfactory system might be a particular target of this virus. When we test for this virus we always test people’s nose because the other places you could sample like saliva or other bodily fluids don’t contain very much virus. The money’s always in the nasopharyngeal swab.   :31

Lane says the next step is to take living tissue to see if the virus prefers this area. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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