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UArizona researchers discover commonality in fatal COVID-19 cases

University of Arizona BIO5 Institute Laboratory
Posted at 6:40 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 08:52:58-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Inside a lab at the University of Arizona's BIO5 Institute, students aren't just preparing for their future. Recently they've made groundbreaking discoveries about COVID-19 and the effect it has on the human body.

"We got blood samples from people without COVID, mild cases, severe cases and from people who succumbed to the disease," said University of Arizona Professor and BIO5 Institute Associate Director, Floyd Chilton.

These samples came from patients at Banner University Medical Center. Chilton and his students studied them throughout the last year and a half.

"We were able to see distinct patterns in people who died from the disease. One set of patterns indicated that there was an enzyme that appeared to be highly associated with people who died," said Chilton.

Chilton said this enzyme looks a lot like the active ingredient in snake venom. At low concentrations it protects the body from infection. When there is too much of it, it causes the body to shut down.

"In the end, we have postulated that it is putting the vital organs out of their misery and leading to death," said Chilton.

The University of Arizona is sharing this finding with health organizations around the world. Chilton said the discovery could help in a clinical trial to treat some of the most serious COVID-19 cases.

"We can begin to see who could fund an international clinical trial for severe COVID to prevent death," said Chilton.