Bacteria could prove key to curing the coronavirus and other viruses, Israeli researchers say, following a finding they are likening to the discovery of antibiotics.
A team from the Weizmann Institute of Science has identified molecules that bacteria produce to protect themselves when they are under attack by viruses.
They believe that the molecules, which can be synthetically made, will have the same virus-fighting ability if introduced to infected human cells, and are testing the theory on human tissue in a lab.
An Israeli drug company, Pantheon Biosciences, has already licensed the rights to develop anti-viral drugs based on the finding.
The Weizmann research was peer-reviewed and published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“Our finding could lead to drugs that cure various viruses, and provide a solution to the next pandemic, or maybe even this one,” lead researcher Rotem Sorek, of Weizmann’s Molecular Genetics Department, told The Times of Israel.
He drew a parallel to the discovery of antibiotics, compounds found in bacteria and fungi that are capable of killing or inhibiting bacterial infections. “We believe we’ve found parallel compounds that will inhibit viruses,” he said.
Studies conducted over the past decade by Sorek, as well as studies by other scientists, have revealed that bacteria have highly sophisticated immune systems, despite their microscopic size. In particular, they are equipped to fight off phages – viruses that infect bacteria.
Read More: Times of Israel