26 September, 2023
Since SARS-CoV-2 first appeared, scientists have been examining the structure of the virus for clues as to how it causes such diverse reactions in the human body. Now, KAUST researchers and scientists across Saudi Arabia have demonstrated how particular mutations on one SARS-CoV-2 protein are directly linked to extreme host immune responses.
For people who suffer a severe COVID-19 infection, the heightened immune response triggered by the virus can lead to systemic inflammation and, in the worst cases, a potentially deadly cytokine storm that can cause the patient’s major organs to shut down.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, our laboratory initiated a collaborative research project on SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology in Saudi Arabia as part of the KAUST Rapid Research Response Team (KAUST R3T),” says Muhammad Shuaib, epigenetics researcher and a member of the team led by Arnab Pain. Their study examined SARS-CoV-2 behavior and potential variations in its genetic code within the local population before vaccinations were available.