TMPRSS2: Kids Provide Answers To COVID


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— According to the CDC, the rate of hospitalization for kids diagnosed with COVID-19 was eight per 100,000, while for adults it was 20 times that at 164 per 100,000 people. While kids can and do get COVID, a team of researchers is looking into why COVID spares many kids to find a treatment for the disease. Lung experts from Vanderbilt University say the reason may all be due to a protein called TMPRSS2.

Why does COVID-19 spare young kids and devastate the elderly?

“This is really the opposite of what we see in most respiratory viruses where the very young neonates and infants are at high risk for severe disease,” remarked Jonathan Kropski, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“TMPRSS2 really acts as an uncorking protein to allow the virus to get inside the cell,” explained Jennifer Sucre, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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“That’s what allows it to start to replicate and for it to start to cause disease and injury to the lung,” illustrated Dr. Kropski.

The researchers looking at mice and human lung tissue found that the amount of TMPRSS2 in our body increases as we age.

“The expression of TMPRSS2 increases significantly across the life span from very low in around birth to much higher levels in adulthood,” clarified Dr. Kropski.

The next step now is to use this information to provide an effective treatment.

“To start using some of these drugs that target TMPRSS2 expression to see if they can delay or prevent viral infectivity or replication,” elaborated Dr. Sucre.

And stop COVID-19 in its tracks.

TMPRSS2 has been studied in other diseases as well, specifically prostate cancer. There are already approved drugs that target the protein, so a potential therapy to target COVID can get a faster approval.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4792

COVID-19: Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome known as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome known as MERS. In 2019, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. The virus is now known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.


CHILDREN, BABIES AND COVID-19: Children can become ill with COVID-19. But most kids who are infected typically do not become as sick as adults and some might not show any symptoms at all. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, children represent about 9% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Hospitalization rates for children are much lower than for adults. However, according to the CDC, if children are hospitalized, they need to be treated in the intensive care unit as often as hospitalized adults. Some experts suggest children might not be severely affected by COVID-19 because other coronaviruses spread in the community and cause diseases such as the common cold. Since children often get colds, their immune systems might be primed to provide them with some protection against COVID-19. It is also possible that children’s immune systems interact with the virus differently than adults’ immune systems. Although rare, children under age 2 appear to be at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 than older children. This is likely due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop breathing issues with respiratory virus infections. Newborns can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 during childbirth or by exposure to sick caregivers after delivery.


BLOCKING ENZYMES TO PREVENT COVID-19: Lung disease experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and their colleagues have determined a key factor as to why COVID-19 appears to infect and sicken adults and older people while seeming to spare younger children. Researchers have discovered that children have lower levels of an enzyme the virus needs to invade airway epithelial cells in the lung. Their findings suggest that blocking this enzyme could potentially prevent COVID-19 infection in older people. Researchers wondered whether levels of ACE2 and the protease, called TMPRSS2, change during lung development. If infants and children express less of these proteins, maybe that is why they seem to be less vulnerable than older people to severe illness.





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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Jennifer Sucre, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics

Read the entire Q&A