Could a teenager’s discovery help treat COVID-19 patients?

Illustration showing several round viruses covered in spikes (© Shutterstock)
An illustration shows the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. (© Shutterstock)

A 14-year-old American student’s award-winning science project could offer insights into a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Anika Chebrolu, an eighth-grader and aspiring medical researcher from Frisco, Texas, used computer modeling to pinpoint a molecule that can bind to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and inhibit its ability to infect people, according to news reports.

Anika spent the summer working every day on the project.

“Since all my work is computational and required only the use of various software, I did all of my project at home,” she told the Dallas Morning News.

Anika is taking part in a global push to develop a cure for COVID-19, which has infected more than 54 million people worldwide and killed more than 1.3 million as of November 16, according to the World Health Organization.

The United States is supporting the development of numerous potential vaccines for COVID-19, including several that are in the final stages of testing. On October 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an antiviral treatment for patients hospitalized with the disease.

Anika originally planned to search for a cure for the influenza virus. But after COVID-19 started spreading worldwide, the young scientist and her mentor changed gears and began searching for a molecule that could bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and inhibit its ability to infect human cells.

“After spending so much time researching about pandemics, viruses and drug discovery, it was crazy to think that I was actually living through something like this,” she told CNN.

In October Anika won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her project. The award includes a $25,000 prize.