Researchers explain why COPD patients may have to bear severe Covid-19 outcomes

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 17, 2020

Goblet cells play a critical role in SARS-CoV-2 infection of the lung and are responsible for the severe outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection in COPD patients

A new study revealed that goblet cell — a type of epithelial cell present in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients — plays a vital role in the growth of coronavirus and its replication in the host’s body.

Researchers explained that SARS-CoV-2 uses the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), with serine protease TMPRSS2, to achieve host cell entry and infection.

Goblet cells in the nose and subsegmental bronchi also show ACE2 expression. This could explain how SARS-CoV-2 infects these cells preferentially, like the influenza A virus.

Researchers believe that COPD is a significant risk factor for severe Covid-19, which prompted the current study on airway epithelium.

The reason why COPD patients could develop severe symptoms is that goblet cells show rapid growth in COPD patients and ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were expressed at higher levels in COPD epithelium compared to the healthy epithelium.

Researchers found that the infected epithelium was worsened by the virus, with extensive destruction of the cells and mucus secretion.

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The researchers concluded: “We postulate that goblet cells play a critical role in SARS-CoV-2 infection of the lung and are responsible for severe outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection in COPD patients.”

These findings suggest that the larger number of goblet cells in the COPD epithelium makes it easier for the virus to replicate, producing more severe disease.

The findings of the study were published in the journal News Medical and Life Sciences.

Published on November 17, 2020

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