University of Malta Scientists Use Fruit Flies To Understand And Possibly Tackle COVID-19


Like it or not, the pandemic has gladly set up its foundations as part of a global reality. As the intelligent virus seems to adapt and grow, SARS-CoV-2’s impact on the world’s future still remains a novelty.

How SARS-CoV-2 causes disease and death in covid-19 | The Economist
SARS-CoV-2 transmission of disease

To an equal extent, scientific research has been pouring billions of money to study the virus and understand it better. Likewise, the University of Malta’s ALS/MND research lab has gained enough funding for the department to conduct a study on the symptoms of COVID-19 and how can those symptoms be reflective of an alternative way on how to tackle the virus.

Fruit Flies and COVID-19. Yep. You heard that right

Fruit flies have been long used in research as their genes are linked to diseases in humans. Their small size makes them easier to fast-breed and therefore conduct experiments in a shorter span of time.

TEDx Talk: Wonder Genes ... and how to find them - MND/ALS Researcher Dr Ruben  Cauchi - YouTube
Prof. Ruben Cauchi

Before Spring, Prof. Ruben Cauchi, who is currently leading the research at the lab had been researching the disease make-up of the causative genes for ALS. By using fruit flies, the research aimed at discovering potential cures.

By using the same logic, Prof. Cauchi is now using the same fruitflies logic to explore alternative ways to treat COVID-19, rather than just the vaccines.

Different ways of understanding give light to different solutions

As the rollout of vaccines and their positive effect has been almost miraculous, vaccines however are not 100% safe and they cannot promise protection from the ever-developing variants of the COVID-19 virus.

We have talked to Dr Paul Herrera who is currently conducting the research alongside Dr Cauchi. He explains, “vaccines targeting the spike proteins are only one way to deal with this pandemic. Researchers are nowadays looking into multiple strategies to fight a broad range of viruses simultaneously, rather than one specific virus.”

“The ACE2 receptor is critical for SARS-CoV-2 host cell entry and, therefore, infection. Using our fruit fly model, we want to understand whether lower levels of the ACE2 receptor in key places (e.g.: lungs and muscles) will still allow the fruit flies to thrive. If this is the case, we would be one step closer to an alternative plan of action. I think that at the moment there is a substantial amount of research going on to understand both the virus and the host biology. And this is positive as we need to face this challenge from multiple angles to come up with the best possible solutions.”

Dr Paul Herrera, Research Support Officer (post-doc)

This is not the first pandemic to have hit the world so hard; all the while humanity is still intact. Such research is welcomed with positivity as we all look towards a brighter future. Share the love of science.