- COVID-19 infected more than 103 million people, caused 2.25 million deaths
- SARS virus caused over 750 deaths and more than 8400 known cases
- SARS-CoV-2 uses a much smarter strategy to attack the human cell: Study
Houston: Scientists have compared variants of the novel coronavirus and the closely related 2002-03 SARS pandemic virus and found the differences in their respective infection mechanisms, an advance that partly explains why COVID-19 transmission is much more difficult to control. The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, noted that both the COVID-19 virus – SARS-CoV-2 – and the SARS coronavirus are very similar in sequence and almost identical in structure.
However, compared to the SARS virus, which caused over 750 deaths and more than 8400 known cases of infection during the 2002-03 pandemic, the novel coronavirus has so far infected more than 103 million people across the world, killing over 2.25 million. According to the scientists, including those from the University of Texas at El Paso in the US, some differences in the COVID-19 virus make it significantly more contagious.
We found that because of mutations, the binding from SARS-CoV-2 to the human cell is much stronger compared with SARS-CoV, explained Lin Li, a co-author of the study from the University of Texas at El Paso. Li believes the mutation could be one of the reasons why the novel coronavirus is spreading much faster and is difficult to control.
SARS-CoV-2 also uses a much smarter strategy to attack the human cell than SARS-CoV, he said.
According to the scientists, when the SARS virus infects or binds to the human cell, it uses several key amino acid molecules, or residues, part of its proteins to do so. In comparison, they said the novel coronavirus uses more such molecules, “making it more robust and easier to completely hijack the human cell.”
We identified the most important residues for SARS-CoV-2 to bind to the human cell. This type of data is key for drug development to cure or treat infections caused by these types of viruses, Mr Li said.
The researchers also specifically analysed one of the main proteins in both the viruses – the spike protein which enables them to infect cells. They found that between the novel coronavirus and the SARS virus there is a change in mechanism of the section of the spike protein which binds to human cells.
The binding domain needs to flip out so that it can bind to the human cell, but we found some strange mutations that happened. Like the hinge of a door, the binding domain may affect the flip mechanism of SARS-CoV-2, Mr Li explained.
He believes this may make the virus more flexible, making it easier to bind to the human cell.
This type of data is key for drug development to cure or treat infections caused by these types of viruses. These fundamental rules and features can also be used for future disease control when perhaps 10 years from now, there’s a SARS-CoV-3 or 4, Mr Li added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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 (Water, Sanitation 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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.