An international team with researchers of the Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI) of the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) showed that an endogenous protein prevents the virus from fusing with host cells. This raises hopes for new therapeutic approaches.

A protein produced by the human immune system can strongly inhibit coronaviruses, including Sars-Cov-2, the pathogen causing Covid-19. An international team from Germany, Switzerland and the USA successfully showed that the so-called LY6E-Protein prevents coronaviruses from causing an infection.

The results of this study, which started at the Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI) of the University of Bern, could lead to the development of new therapeutic approaches against coronaviruses.

"We wanted to find out which factors prevent coronaviruses from spreading from animals to humans," says corresponding author Prof. Volker Thiel from the IVI in Bern. "Our study provides new insights into how important these antiviral genes are for the control of viral infection and for an adequate immune response against the virus.”

Since LY6E is a naturally occurring human protein, the researchers hope that this knowledge will aid the development of therapies that may one day be used to treat coronavirus infections. A therapeutic approach that mimics the mechanism of action of LY6E may provide a first line of defense against novel coronavirus infections.

The study was financially supported by the European Commission’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie program, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany.