Biotechnology, Covid-19


Student Contributors:

Arkajit De (B.Tech Biotechnology UG-IV)
Srijan Chatterjee (B.Tech Biotechnology UG-IV)

Present Scenario of the World

As the world in under a pandemic state of Coronavirus (COVID-19), a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV(Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) which was first identified in 2003 in civet cats. These viruses belong to a large family of enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses, known as Coronaviridae which causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Coronaviruses are broadly classified into i)Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and ii) Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

A novel Coronavirus or nCoV-2 has been identified as a new strain in 2019 that has not been previously identified in humans. However, an outbreak of unusual respiratory condition was first observed in Wuhan, China, due to the infection caused by novel Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19. It was declared a pandemic on 11th March 2020 by World Health Organization (WHO).

Majority of infected people and aged people with the COVID-19 virus is going to experience breathing problem and those who are suffering from medical issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer are more susceptible to develop serious illness.

In this present scenario, there are no specific or distinct vaccines or treatments discovered for COVID-19. However, there are many research activities going on around the world where they are dealing with anti-viral treatment and developing new therapeutic drugs for eradicating this disease. Therefore, all people must take care of their health to protect themselves from this pandemic disease and must boost their immune system to combat against COVID-19.

Immunomodulatory elements that reduce the risk of infection

The immune system plays a vital role in combatting against all diseases. The immune system involves different types of cells that synthesize, store, and secrete hormones such as lymphocytes (T-cells, B-cells, and NK cells). T-cells or T- lymphocytes are produced in the thymus which plays a versatile role in the regulation of antigen-specific immune responses. B-cells or B-lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow which also plays a crucial role in the humoral immunity component of the adaptive immune system by secreting antibodies that are activated by the binding of antigen to receptors on its cell surface which causes the cell division and cell proliferation. Some B-cells becomes plasma cell which secretes antibodies which helps to boost our immunity. NK cells or Natural Killer cells are a subset of bone-marrow-derived lymphocytes that helps in the host-rejection of both tumors and virus-infected cells. Therefore, the cells are further activated as the adaptive immune response which generates antigen-specific cytotoxic T-cells that can clear the infection in response to macrophage-derived cytokines or interferons. The immune system also involves various hormones and proteins responsible for boosting our immunity power such as thyroid hormones (TRH, TSH, T3), growth hormone (GH), prolactin, melatonin, histamine, serotonin, etc. In human beings when any pathogen enters our body white blood cells (leukocytes) play an important role in protecting our body against any disease.

White blood cells or leukocytes, a cellular component of the blood which lacks hemoglobin (Hb) (i.e. a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body and it gives the blood its red color as hemoglobin contains iron in it), it has a nucleus, which is capable of motility, and also defends us against diseases and infection by the process phagocytosis. Therefore they also bind to disease-causing bacteria (i.e. pathogen) which further incorporate them in a phagosome, which further matures and acidifies through fusing with endosomes and lysosomes which gives rise to phagolysosomes for destroying the contents which are non-essential for our body.

  Immunomodulatory Agents: Nutraceuticals

Nutraceuticals in broad aspect can be described as food supplements that provide extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods without any side effects. The two broad classes of nutraceuticals that help in boosting the immunity in this pandemic situation are:

  1. Herbal Nutraceuticals
  2. a) Bioactive constituents like menthol found in peppermint can be used for curing chronic diseases like flu and cold.
  3. b) A healthy diet is incomplete without vegetables. Vegetables play a pivotal role in boosting immunity and is a rich source of many nutrients. Vegetables contain carotenoids (a phytochemical) which enhances the immune system.

c)The dried herbs of Echinacea purpurea contain alkyl amide and echinacoside which acts as an anti-inflammatory and antiviral agent.

  1. Fortified Nutraceuticals
  2. a) To carry out the metabolism in a proper way, one needs to uptake diets rich in Vitamins. They are required in small proportions but are very essential to boost our immunity. However, deficiencies of Vitamins A, C, D, and E inhibit the resistance against any infections and result in a negative impact on the immune system.
  3. b) Another class of nutrient that is essential for the proper functioning of the white blood cells is “micronutrient”. Deficiencies of zinc, iron, selenium, copper, and magnesium also inhibit the resistance against any infections and have negative impacts on the immune system. The health supplement industries can communicate how these micronutrients and mineral work do and support a healthy immune system.
  4. c) Another important supplement that is present in very few foods is Vitamin D. A diseased person should require at least 50mg of Vitamin D supplements regularly because it enhances the killing capacity and promotes differentiation of monocytes to microphage.
  5. d) Interferon production (a group of signaling proteins released by host cells in response to a virus) can be increased by consumption of 50-100 micrograms of Selenium. The production is downregulated by Vitamin A whereas Vitamin C, zinc, and iron play a role in its production.
  6. e) Vitamin C, D, and Zinc help in maintaining the serum levels of proteins which helps in enhancing the process of phagocytosis. Vitamin D primarily helps to regulate the expression of these proteins.
  7. f) Copper has intrinsic antimicrobial properties that destroy a wide range of microorganisms.

g)The stimulus transmission of interferons is governed by anti-stress Vitamins namely Vitamin B complex and folic acids.

  1. h) The chain reaction of viruses once it enters the host is inhibited by magnesium. Thus, the consumption of this micronutrient is also very essential in boosting immunity.

Immunity can be boosted by nutraceuticals

To face the pandemic stress, the immunity of a human being should be very strong. The health supplement industries should prepare a food supplement that is enriched with the above-mentioned nutraceuticals. The nutraceuticals should not be present in a huge amount but an optimum level should be maintained as per the requirements by the body to combat the disease. The supplement should not contain any material which will have a side effect. Moreover, it should act as support for the immune system.

Impact of Bioprocess Industries responsible for producing nutraceuticals

Bioprocess is an expanding field related to any process that uses living cells or their components to obtain specified products. Bioprocessing industries aim to enhance high productivity by utilizing the latest manufacturing processes. Bioprocess industries play a pivotal role in producing high-end nutraceuticals. The new era of bioprocessing will be driven by basic biological sciences in harmony with conventional engineering approaches. Bioprocessing depends on ever-advancing technology and will continue to evolve as new methods are developed. Bioprocess comes under the broader scope of biotechnology which requires specialization in multiple areas especially Molecular Biology, Recombinant DNA Technology, and Chemical Engineering. In these situations, bioprocess industries can communicate with people by producing high-end nutraceuticals. Bioprocess is a broader scope of Biotechnology. Amidst this pandemic situation, Biotechnology comes up with new hope. These tools are the savior for us in this pandemic situation.

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