Environmental Toxicology Professors Making Headway With COVID-19 Research

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the nation, two Southern University professors are working on research that could benefit millions. Babu Bassa, an environmental toxicology adjunct professor, and Rao Uppu, James and Ruth Smith Endowed professor of chemistry and environmental toxicology, have identified two blocks of amino acid sequences that are universally present in an identical form in 150 coronavirus isolates that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The research is being performed in collaboration with Olen Brown, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center in Columbia, Missouri.

“A major contribution of the study to coronavirus research is that the alignment-free computer program developed by the SU-UM researchers, unlike most programs currently being used by others, can significantly aid in identifying sequence homologies between the novel SARS CoV-2 and the older SARS viruses,” said Robert Miller, dean emeritus of sciences at Southern.

Uppo said the information is critical to addressing the present as well as probable future outbreaks of SARS. This includes COVID-19, the virus from the 2003 SARS outbreak, and other SARS-like strains. The work is ongoing to develop short- and long-term treatment options for COVID-19 through design and/or identification of therapeutic peptides and vaccine candidates.

Part of the researchers’ work has been published this month in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, “Frontiers in Bioscience.”

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