The second-fastest supercomputer in the world has done an analysis on COVID-19 and found that it fits into a type of reaction by the body known as bradykinin storms, which can help to explain the sometimes strange assemblage of symptoms patients with serious coronavirus infections experience.
Around 2.5 billion genetic combinations on more than 40,000 samples were analyzed within a week using the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee to come up with the bradykinin hypothesis.
Dr. Daniel Jacobson, lead researcher and chief scientist for computational systems biology at Oak Ridge, called the analysis a “eureka moment” that provided a leap forward in their understanding of the disease.
What is a bradykinin storm?
Scientists already know that the process of infection starts when the virus enters the body through ACE2 receptors in the nose and then find other ACE2 receptors in the intestines, kidneys, and heart. But it doesn’t stop there: the virus can also hijack the body and get it to allow high levels of activity in areas where there aren’t typically a lot of ACE2 receptors–most notably in the lungs.
This activity triggers bradykinin levels in the body to go haywire, and this chemical that normally regulates blood pressure ends up raging through the body and making your blood vessels leaky so that your lungs fill with fluid. Another thing the virus does is increase the production of hyaluronic acid, which turns the lung fluid into a hydrogel that is extremely difficult to dislodge.
This is why the lungs fill with fluid, and why ventilators don’t work very well on the lungs when they are used.
Bradykinin storms can also cause heart arrhythmias and drops in blood pressure, and the leaky blood vessels can also occur in the brain and cause neurological symptoms. Even “COVID toes” can be explained by bradykinin storms, the scientists say.
What does this mean for coronavirus treatment?
Although the bradykinin hypothesis has not been fully tested and proven, the theory can lead health professionals to use different treatments that could work better than the ones now being used.
Medical professionals already know how to treat bradykinin storms because they can occur with the use of ACE inhibitors for heart disease. Some of the same treatments can also be used to treat the coronavirus.
Besides the known drugs that treat bradykinin storms, the scientists say that Vitamin D is also helpful, which dovetails with a previous study that showed lower Vitamin D levels correlating to more deadly levels of the virus.
If it is possible to treat most cases of the coronavirus safely and effectively, it won’t matter whether there is a vaccine for the virus or whether people are reluctant to take it.
Effective coronavirus treatment means that it will be completely safe for people to get back to their normal lives and reverse all of the negative impacts from this virus–a universally welcome development.