The new coronavirus combines the properties of two other related coronaviruses, one of which had a high mortality rate, and the second was extremely contagious.
Scientists from the United States studied the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and discovered features that, in their opinion, explain why the pathogen spreads so quickly between people. The results of the study are published in the journal. Journal of Molecular Biology.
To understand why the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is so contagious, biologists from Cornell University compared its structure to previously known human coronaviruses.
The authors of the study note that, in spite of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is very similar in structure to SARS-CoV-1, which was first recorded in humans in 2003, 86 percent of their genomic sequence coincides, it has features similar to the benign human coronavirus HCoV-HKU1.
At the same time, SARS-CoV-1 has an extremely high mortality rate – about ten percent – but it does not spread very quickly, and HCoV-HKU1, although relatively harmless, but highly contagious, that is, contagious. Scientists believe that it is the combination of the properties of these two viruses that makes SARS-CoV-2 so dangerous.
Researchers also found in the structure of the spike protein of the new coronavirus – an element of the structure responsible for the penetration of the virus into the cell – a special loop composed of a sequence of four amino acids that is not found in other known human coronaviruses.
The spike protein, or S-protein, contains thorns on the surface of the coronavirus, with which it attaches to healthy cell receptors. The presence of a structural loop allows the virus to hold on to the surface of the cell, which ensures its guaranteed penetration. The authors note that the S-protein of the new coronavirus binds to cell receptors almost ten times denser than the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-1 virus.
“SARS-CoV-2 has a strange combination of both properties – lethality and contagiousness. We assume that the structural loop is very important for the transmission of the virus or its stability, or both,” the head of the study, professor of virology, said in a university press release Gary Whittaker
Meanwhile, a study conducted by scientists from Italy did not confirm the danger of coronavirus-infected wastewater.
Doctors from Italy monitored the spread of the new type of coronavirus along the sewers of Milan and came to the conclusion that it could get through them into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water, but it does not threaten humans and natural ecosystems. Preliminary results published in the electronic scientific library medRxiv.
They reported that traces of the virus in mid-April were present in the Lambro and South Lambro rivers. However, tests showed that the virus was not viable, indicating minimal risks to ecosystems and human health.
On the eve it was reported that virologists have created an antibody capable of defeating the coronavirus.
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