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An expert opinion by Dr. Ofer Markman

A sweet perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic – glycobiologist view on the effort to curb the pandemic.

The sugars involved in a viral disease are unique in many ways when compared with the DNA/RNA or the proteins involved: they are almost totally dependent on the infected cells and tus are not affected by the viral mutation rate or by the virus at all. Nevertheless they are affected by the cells, their type and their sugar production mechanisms and in some respect to the production rate by which the virus in manufactured by the infected cells. Mutations may have neverthless major effect not on the structures of the glycans but rather on the axsistance of the glycosylation site, and thus the glycan at all, but not on its structures.

This may make the gycomolecule a good target for diagnostics as stability in the molecule may mean longer life time of the diagnostic kits.

Unique sugars are already predicted/found in the virus from certain chinese origin, in this case an o-linked glycan/s not previously detected.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/22221751.2020.1739565

Nevertheless, if the virus can infect multiple cells once current cells are not going to be available for any reason those viruses may present other glycans.

Once one starts to treat the infected person via modulation of protein production or by other means the change in the dynamic of protein production vs. protein glycosylation may cause changes in protein glycosyation, including their structures, this is well known to biotechnologists producing glycoproteins in labs and production.

This may either be a problem in understanding the state of disease or an advantage as it may help following response to the treatment and help as a co-treament diagnostics.

For that purpose we are starting to see pioneering players in that regard:

https://www.technologynetworks.com/diagnostics/news/carbohydrate-based-diagnostics-a-new-approach-to-covid-19-testing-332313

Glycans may play a role in treatment as well, TAMIFLU is uch an example. Tamiflu is directed to the flu enzyme Neuraminidaze that is part of the viral structures. This approch was also explored to develop treatments.

https://www.pharmasalmanac.com/articles/pneumagen-ltd-leverages-its-novel-glycan-approach-to-target-coronavirus-covid-19-infections

but glycans do not only effect their own involvement in treatment/diagnostics they also are effecting protein based diagnostics for this see statement by Dr. Michael Mercier of UAH

https://www.newswise.com/articles/we-re-dealing-with-covid-19-but-what-s-a-virus-in-the-first-place

also related and already published and commented

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.11.20031096v1

Jiao Zhao, Yan Yang, Han-Ping Huang, Dong Li, Dong-Feng Gu, Xiang-Feng Lu, Zheng Zhang, Lei Liu, Ting Liu, Yu-Kun Liu, Yun-Jiao He, Bin Sun, Mei-Lan Wei, Guang-Yu Yang,  View ORCID ProfileXinghuan Wang, Li Zhang, Xiao-Yang Zhou, Ming-Zhao Xing,  View ORCID ProfilePeng George Wang

doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.11.20031096

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