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COVID-19: How Does Coronavirus Spread Quickly And Attack Human Cells Easily?

Since the initial report in China in 2019, the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world. By January, new cases in Thailand, Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and the US were reported. Which then stretched out to Pakistan, Brazil, Georgia, Greece, North Macedonia, Norway, Romania, India and several other countries - with new cases reported in Dominica, Grenada, Mozambique and Syria by March [1].

Few countries have been marked safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, where there have been no reported cases and they are Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in Asia, Lesotho and Comoros in Africa and Oceania [2].

Studies and reports state that SARS-CoV-2 is one amongst the most rapidly spreading virus, which has caused 4,181,218 cases worldwide [3]. Although SARS-CoV, which caused the SARS outbreak has similarities to SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus is spreading much faster [4]. In 2003, 8,098 SARS cases, with 774 deaths, occurred within 8 months - whereas real-time reports of the COVID-19 pandemic clearly shows the fast-paced movement of the virus [5].

Once the coronavirus enters the human body, it immediately starts attacking the cells, where they enter host cells and reproduce and spread to new cells around the body. Let's take a look as to why and how the novel coronavirus spreads so easily within the body, once you come in contact.


So Why & How Does The COVID-19 Spread Easily?

Extensive studies on the dispersing nature of the coronavirus explored the nature of the virus from different angles where the microscopic structure of the virus was looked into to understand its attachment nature to the human cells upon contact [6]. Genetic studies and reports link the following aspects to the easy spread of the virus.

High binding levels: Reports point out that the structure of the coronavirus allows it to bind to the human body or cells at least 10 times more than the other viruses. This is because the spike protein (used to bind to the membrane of the human cells) in the new coronavirus contains a site that recognizes and becomes activated when in contact with an enzyme called furin [7].

Attraction to furin: Furin is a host-cell enzyme in the liver, the lungs, and the small intestines [8]. So, with furin being present in our body, it becomes easier for the virus to attack the organs. It was recently that researchers discovered the link between furin and SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, which could explain the disease-causing nature of the coronavirus [9][10].

Human cells contain vulnerable elements: In addition to the furin activation process and spike proteins, it has been pointed out that our cells - the human body cells contain elements that make it vulnerable to the new coronavirus [11]. Studies point out the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 human cells allows SARS-CoV-2 to infect human cells [12][13]. Also, the coronavirus has a high attraction to ACE2 - thereby binding more to the human cells than any other virus.


Researchers Link Transmission Nature To Vaccine Development

Studying the contributing factors of the easy transmission of the virus have allowed the researchers to gather an idea of developing vaccines that would help target and block the COVID-19 virus [14].

Understanding the role of furin has helped in putting forth the notion that furin inhibitors may be a valid therapeutic method for preventing SARS-CoV-2 [15]. Furin inhibitors are medicines used in the treatment of controlling furin activity and treat inflammatory and infectious diseases [16].

Another possible idea for vaccine and treatment development was blocking ACE2 receptors as may help top the coronavirus from penetrating the cells [17]. A study showed that antibodies from four mice that had been immunised against SARS-CoV had aided in reducing infection that contained SARS-CoV-2's spike proteins [18].


On A Final Note…

In conclusion, factors such as binding levels, attraction to the furin enzyme and presence of ACE2 (enzyme) causes the easy and quick spread of the coronavirus. These structural features of the SARS-CoV-2 virus allow it to attack human cells and spread so efficiently within the body.

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