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Can immunosuppressive therapies save lives? London, Ont., researchers launch study

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, gray, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. Experts say researchers racing against time to provide a proven treatment for COVID-19 will have to balance scientific rigor against speed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

Researchers out of Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University in London, Ont., are trying to better understand the immune system’s response to the new coronavirus and whether or not immunosuppressive therapies can improve mortality rates.

According to the team, some early reports from scientists and physicians suggest that the virus can cause a cytokine storm in some patients, which is when the immune system goes dangerously overboard in responding to it.

READ MORE: What are coronavirus symptoms? In mild cases, just like the common cold

“Some researchers are suggesting that mortality could be improved with immunosuppressive therapies,” said lead researcher Dr. Douglas Fraser.

Researchers are testing daily blood samples taken from London Health Sciences Centre patients presumed to have COVID-19 and looking for inflammatory biomarkers to track the changing immune response over time. Researchers will be comparing that data “to the immune response in patients with other infections, as well as in healthy controls.” The data will also be useful in future studies.

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“This study could also inform why some people become critically ill and others do not, and help determine who will respond to certain therapies,” said Fraser.

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