The road to finding a cure or helpful treatment for the novel coronavirus hasn't been easy — and is still ongoing — but a potential remedy may lie within the brains of a 14-year-old teen scientist, whose COVID-19 research uncovered some promising information.
Anika Chebrolu just won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge and a $25,000 prize for her method to combat the deadly pandemic. According to the contest’s website, Chebrolu developed a computer simulation of a method that could discover a molecule that can "selectively bind to the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus," which is the virus that causes COVID-19, to prevent it from functioning.
"This protein by binding to it it will stop the function of the protein," the 14-year-old told ABC News. Chebrolu's discovery has earned her the prestigious title of "America's Top Young Scientist."
The Frisco, Texas teen, who attended Nelson Middle School at the time of the contest, told CNN that when she first entered her project into the contest, it wasn’t going to be focused on a cure for the coronavirus. Instead, its initial purpose was to find a better combat against the seasonal flu.
"I have always been amazed by science experiments since my childhood and I was drawn towards finding effective cures for influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year,” she explained in an interview for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
But once the pandemic hit earlier this year, Chebrolu told CNN her inquisitiveness eventually changed to finding remedies for the coronavirus. "Because of the immense severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had made on the world in such a short time, I, with the help of my mentor, changed directions to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus," she said.
To date, the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show coronavirus cases have surpassed 8 million in the United States, since the first case was reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) last December; deaths are now over 219,000.
Chebrolu's motto for the contest, which has been around since 1999 and aims to mentor the next generation of scientists, was "never stop asking questions." And, as evidenced by her research into finding a cure for the virus, she stuck to it.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.