While various government officials continue to wait for the fateful vaccine as a sort of panacea against coronavirus, the important results that some Italian doctors and professors are getting with some therapeutic approaches continue to arrive. For example, we could thank our beloved cats if the curative approach provided by the protocol of the veterinary surgeon Giacomo Rossi confirms the encouraging results that emerged in the first instance. Starting from Fecov, the corresponding feline pathology originated by Coronavirus, prof. Rossi and his team from the University of Camerino, managed to reach rather encouraging conclusions. While the United States immediately showed interest in this protocol, Italy still has not moved.
When did your studies on Covid-19 begin?
For about two years I have been interested in the immune response of the cat affected by FeCov, the feline coronavirus, with particular regard to the response mediated by macrophages, the cells that are responsible for “eating” the pathogens that infect us. You see, in the cat with FeCoV we realized that if the function of these cells is not perfect or is incomplete, the virus can cross the intestine, where it normally resides, generalize in the body and cause a serious disease, for which there is no vaccine or specific therapy and the outcome of which is almost always the death of the infected animal. Well, studying the mechanism by which the FeCoV virus enters the cells, as soon as the results of the Covid-19 receptor structure were disclosed by the Chinese colleagues, I made the necessary comparisons in the protein and amino acid structure and I saw that the coronavirus Covid-19 differs from other coronaviruses, having several more glycosylation sites. These sites are those whose simple sugars bind to the terminal Asparagine amino acid of a trans-membrane protein. Therefore, I thought that this difference could be the basis of the greater virulence of the virus. I also thought that by eliminating these sites, the binding of the coronavirus Covid-19 to the host cells could be reduced in a very important way, and therefore, in practice, to significantly reduce the impact of the infection and the clinical signs of the disease.
We have heard various visions of Covid from the experts over the past two months. What profile of the virus do you track?
From what I have been able to observe and read from the experiences of many colleagues worldwide on this virus, I can say that I got a fairly precise idea of this virus: a) it is a virus that has a high tendency to mutation, as indeed all coronaviruses do, changing its pathogenetic activity and its sensitivity to the various drugs that are used to contain it such as viral protease (Pro) and viral polymerase (POL) inhibitors; b) it is a very little “immunogenic” virus, having the main antigenic sites “hidden” in areas of the viral spike, very little exposed to our immune system …. this means that many individuals do not develop antibodies or develop antibodies to non-antigens functional to block the virus, therefore not “protective”; d) it is a virus that using multiple transmission pathways (we have been very focused on the respiratory-aerosol elimination pathway, but this virus is released in large quantities with urine, feces and I also assume seminal fluid since a large amount of receptors and cellular proteases designed to “activate the virus” are present in the male genital organs!). So I got the idea that this infection will carry on for quite a while, under trace, expect to see it re-explode in temperature and environmental conditions suitable for all respiratory or para-flu forms until we have found a weapon for an effective fight against infection or its prevention! ”
How widespread is infectivity in cats?
I take the opportunity of this question to clarify immediately a fundamental thing: the infectivity of cats can be reported only and only to FCoV, or to the feline coronavirus! The cats in fact represent only sporadically, and still to be explored, a possible species slightly “permissive” to the viral replication of Covid-19! The few scientific works on the subject, I refer to the cases of positivity to the swab found in feces, vomiting and upper respiratory tract of some cohabitating cats with sick and symptomatic owners, as well as the experiments of experimental infection carried out in China, it is highlighted how the cat may be slightly “permissive” to the replication of this virus, only if exposed to very high infectious loads (as was done in Chinese experiments …) which are unthinkable of even in the most contaminated domestic environments! Regarding the positivity found in “spontaneous” cases, this simply tells us that the virus has passed from the owner to the cat (or dog) and that this has “kept” it for some days still potentially “active”, but not that the virus has replicated enhancing its infectivity! Practically, dogs and cats represent “passive vectors”, as do household objects or surfaces that are contaminated by human patients, rather than active and diffusive “receptors” of the infection!
What are the medications you have tested and what results have they achieved?
The three drugs that make up our protocol, and that are in these days in the clinical study, are L-Asparaginase, Chloroquine and low molecular weight heparin. L-Asparaginase is a chemotherapy that determines a cellular depletion of the amino acid Asparagine, fundamental for the attack on the cell surface of some simple sugars which represent many viral attack sites. Chloroquine alters the pH of the endosomal vesicles within which the virus is carried within the cell, further reducing survival. Finally, the use of low molecular weight heparin is really useful already in the first phase of hospitalization, to prevent the micro thrombotic pathology of the hospitalized Covid-19 patient, as well as for its very interesting anti-inflammatory effect, which is by no means negligible, which can contribute further to preserve the cardiovascular system and the integrity of the patient’s different parenchyma!
What are the next steps?
Like any therapeutic protocol, this one we propose must also be scientifically validated. Obviously, the fact that three old knowledge drugs are used (Chloroquine, Heparin and L-Asparaginase) facilitates the off-label approval steps of the protocol itself …….. in any case it will be necessary to recruit a suitable number of Covid-19 patients who will be treated and who will then be assessed on the basis of clinical and haematological / instrumental parameters with regards to recovery times and the return to a normal condition.
In addition to American interest, has Italy moved to experiment with this type of treatment?
So far I know from Doctor Bellini, the scientist researcher and entrepreneur from the Marche, who invested in this idea and who patented it in the United States, that various Italian hospitals have requested a release in order to use our protocol in off-label mode also in our country.
Would a vaccine, in your opinion, be effective at a preventive level or, as some doctors and virologists claim, would the virus mutations not protect us even in this case?
A vaccine, being that this is actually a virus that changes very easily, could help us acquire the immunity of the population (or “flock” as much has been said these days) that could help contain infections and the outbreak of new outbreaks in the future …… But I too have doubts about a rapid realization of the vaccine! This virus constantly shows us its poor immunogenicity and above all the induction of a very weak immune response …. it does not seem that, now, there is evidence that the infection induces a solid and lasting immunological memory …
If we found a cure to avoid the effects of the virus on some categories of people, could we return to a life similar to the previous one or would we have to surrender to scenarios of distance and perennial closures?
A cure could certainly make us face greater serenity and safety, phase 2 of the pandemic …. As I said this virus is not very immunogenic, and the general “lockout” has preserved “undamaged” from the infection but still completely receptive to the virus a very high percentage of Italians. The absence of an effective immunizing system or a “flock” effect of immunity can potentially expose us to a terrible return of the infection, perhaps as large as the one we have suffered in the past few months!! So given this state and the therapeutic weapons that we have available to date, phase 2 must take place in compliance with the strictest rules of self-preservation and social distancing …… it is bad to say and configure it … but it is so!