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COVID-19 Virus Highly Adapted To Infect Human Cells: Study

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, aimed to help identify any intermediate animal vector that may have played a role in transmitting a bat virus to humans

COVID-19 Virus Highly Adapted To Infect Human Cells: Study
Highlights
  • The researchers used genomic data from the 12 animal species
  • Humans showed the strongest spike binding: Study
  • Study argues against the virus being transmitted from bats to humans

Melbourne: The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is most ideally adapted to infect human cells, rather than bat or pangolin cells, according to a study which raises questions about the origin of the virus. The researchers from Flinders University and La Trobe University in Australia used high-performance computer modelling of the form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the beginning of the pandemic to predict its ability to infect humans and 12 domestic and exotic animals.

Also Read: Vaccination Needs To Be Boosted Massively As The Contagious Delta Variant Of COVID-19 Continues To Spread, Says Epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday (June 24), aimed to help identify any intermediate animal vector that may have played a role in transmitting a bat virus to humans. The researchers used genomic data from the 12 animal species to painstakingly build computer models of the key ACE2 protein receptors for each species.

These models were then used to calculate the strength of binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to each species’ ACE2, which acts as the receptor for SARS-CoV-2 and allows it to infect the cell.

The results showed that SARS-CoV-2 bound to ACE2 on humans cells more tightly than any of the tested animal species, including bats and pangolins. The researchers explained that if one of the animals species tested was the origin, it would normally be expected to show the highest binding to the virus.

Humans showed the strongest spike binding, consistent with the high susceptibility to the virus, but very surprising if an animal was the initial source of the infection in humans. The computer modelling found the virus’s ability to bind to the bat ACE2 protein was poor relative to its ability to bind human cells, said David Winkler, a professor at the La Trobe University.

Also Read: AstraZeneca, Pfizer Vaccines Effective Against Delta COVID-19 Variants: Study

This, the researchers said, argues against the virus being transmitted directly from bats to humans.

If the virus has a natural source, it could only have come to humans via an intermediary species which has yet to be found, said Professor Nikolai Petrovsky from Flinders University.

The team’s computer modeling shows the SARS-CoV-2 virus also bound relatively strongly to ACE2 from pangolins, a rare exotic ant-eater found in some parts of South-East Asia. Winkler said pangolins showed the highest spike binding energy of all the animals the study looked at, significantly higher than bats, monkeys and snakes.

The researchers said it was incorrectly suggested early in the pandemic by some scientists that they had found SARS-CoV-2 in pangolins.

This was due to a misunderstanding and this claim was rapidly retracted as the pangolin coronavirus they described had less than 90 per cent genetic similarity to SARS-CoV-2 and hence could not be its ancestor, Professor Petrovsky said.

This study and others have shown, however, that the specific part of the pangolin coronavirus spike protein that binds ACE2 was almost identical to that of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This sharing of the almost identical spike protein, which allows the virus to enter the cells, almost certainly explains why SARS-CoV-2 binds so well to pangolin ACE2, according to the researchers.

Overall, putting aside the intriguing pangolin ACE2 results, our study showed that the COVID-19 virus was very well adapted to infect humans, Professor Petrovsky said.

The study also suggests that some domesticated animals like cats, dogs and cows are likely to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection too. The extremely important and open question of how the virus came to infect humans has two main explanations currently, they said. The virus may have passed to humans from bats through an intermediary animal yet to be found (zoonotic origin), according to the researchers. However, it cannot yet be excluded that it was released accidently from a virology lab, they said. A thorough scientific, evidence-based investigation is needed to determine which of these explanations is correct, the researchers added.

Also Read: Opinion: Learning From The COVID-19 Pandemic About Climate Change

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

26,43,68,460Cases
22,50,84,762Active
3,40,45,666Recovered
52,38,032Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 196 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 26,43,68,460 and 52,38,032 have died; 22,50,84,762 are active cases and 3,40,45,666 have recovered as on December 3, 2021 at 1:36 pm.

India

3,46,15,757 9,216Cases
99,976 213Active
3,40,45,666 8,612Recovered
4,70,115 391Deaths
In India, there are 3,46,15,757 confirmed cases including 4,70,115 deaths. The number of active cases is 99,976 and 3,40,45,666 have recovered as on December 3, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

66,37,221 796

10,882 180

64,85,290 952

1,41,049 24

Kerala

51,51,919 4,700

45,030 252

50,66,034 4,128

40,855 320

Karnataka

29,96,833 363

6,772 169

29,51,845 191

38,216 3

Tamil Nadu

27,28,350 715

8,155 45

26,83,691 748

36,504 12

Andhra Pradesh

20,73,252 159

2,138 11

20,56,670 169

14,444 1

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,417 12

93 1

16,87,413 11

22,911

West Bengal

16,17,408 657

7,690 22

15,90,208 667

19,510 12

Delhi

14,41,190 217

307 21

14,15,785 196

25,098

Odisha

10,49,597 252

2,211 26

10,38,971 276

8,415 2

Chhattisgarh

10,06,870 37

328 12

9,92,949 25

13,593

Rajasthan

9,54,827 21

213 10

9,45,659 11

8,955

Gujarat

8,27,570 50

318 25

8,17,158 24

10,094 1

Madhya Pradesh

7,93,199 12

128 4

7,82,543 8

10,528

Haryana

7,71,760 27

178 9

7,61,528 18

10,054

Bihar

7,26,230 5

32 0

7,16,534 4

9,664 1

Telangana

6,76,376 189

3,680 50

6,68,701 137

3,995 2

Assam

6,17,163 124

2,535 77

6,08,517 198

6,111 3

Punjab

6,03,352 32

344 13

5,86,402 18

16,606 1

Jharkhand

3,49,271 15

95 1

3,44,035 13

5,141 1

Uttarakhand

3,44,325 22

182 4

3,36,735 18

7,408

Jammu And Kashmir

3,37,263 177

1,697 10

3,31,089 167

4,477

Himachal Pradesh

2,27,354 85

835 29

2,22,669 113

3,850 1

Goa

1,79,046 56

367 40

1,75,295 16

3,384

Mizoram

1,35,765 315

3,717 55

1,31,545 368

503 2

Puducherry

1,28,998 33

299 10

1,26,826 23

1,873

Manipur

1,25,269 33

663 4

1,22,627 28

1,979 1

Tripura

84,835 15

94 6

83,916 8

825 1

Meghalaya

84,534 24

296 2

82,764 25

1,474 1

Chandigarh

65,475 4

65 1

64,590 5

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,285 6

36 1

54,969 5

280

Sikkim

32,267 15

137 10

31,727 5

403

Nagaland

32,128 3

128 5

31,302 6

698 2

Ladakh

21,642 41

306 21

21,122 20

214

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,683

0 1

10,679 1

4

Lakshadweep

10,397 1

18 8

10,328 9

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,686 3

7 2

7,550 1

129

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