General, Research, Technology

How does a new coronavirus mutate and will it become more dangerous over time?

The world learned about the existence of SARS-CoV-2 only threemonths ago, but scientists have already made some assumptions about where it came from and why it behaves so aggressively. One of the few good news in the wake of the raging pandemic is that, by nature, individual coronaviruses are easy to destroy. Each viral particle consists of a small set of genes enclosed in a fatty envelope, which is easy to destroy with soap - 20 seconds of thorough washing of hands and the virus as never happened. Also, the results of numerous studies have shown that the new coronavirus survives no more than one day on cardboard and about two to three days on metal surfaces and plastic. In other words, CoVID-19 is a parasite that needs hosts to live and reproduce. But can he mutate, and if so, how?

Coronavirus has already mutated in two different ways, but what will happen next?

New coronavirus is a mystery for scientists

In our special material dedicated to oneof the most important scientific discoveries of 2020 - proof of the natural origin of the new coronavirus - we talked in detail about how the virus enters the host. In its shape, a coronavirus is a ball with spikes (the very crown) that recognize and attach to a protein called ACE2, which is located on the surface of our cells. This contact is the first step to the development of the disease. The neat and precise contours of the SARS-CoV-2 spikes allow the virus to adhere to ACE2 much more strongly than its closest relatives, SARS and MERS. Today, researchers do not rule out the possibility that this is indeed crucial in transmitting coronavirus from person to person.

There is another important feature. The coronavirus spikes not only determine the outer surface of the cells, but also “crack” them, successfully making their way inside. According to scientists, according to The Atlantic, this is one of the most unusual characteristics of the new virus. However, it may mean that there may not be further mutations.

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So CoVID-19 looks under a microscope

For example, most respiratory viruses havea tendency to infect either the upper or lower respiratory tract. As a rule, an upper respiratory tract infection spreads more easily, but is milder, while a lower respiratory tract infection is more difficult to transmit but harder to carry. The new coronavirus appears to infect both the upper and lower respiratory tract. This double blow can also explain why the virus spreads between people before the onset of symptoms: the new coronavirus is transmitted while it is in the upper respiratory tract, and when it falls into the lower airways, pneumonia develops. However, much of the biology of SARS-CoV-2 is still a mystery.

Upper respiratory tract - nasal and oral cavities, nasopharynx, pharynx
Lower respiratory tract - larynx, trachea, bronchi

How has CoVID-19 changed and will it change?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the virus has not undergone anysignificant changes. It mutates in the same way as all viruses. But of the more than 100 mutations that have been documented, not one has become dominant. The virus is surprisingly stable, given how many transmission cases we observe today. Moreover, there is no evolutionary pressure on the virus - it is already perfectly transmitted. But this does not mean that CoVID-19 will not mutate. So, in several samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isolated from infected people in Singapore, some of the genes that also disappeared from SARS - a severe acute respiratory syndrome - are missing in the later stages of its epidemic in 2003. However, the reasons why some coronaviruses are fatal and others not are unclear.

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A pandemic is bad, but it won’t last forever

As a rule, most viruses with whichhumanity is well known, they pursue the same goal - to reproduce as efficiently as possible. So, the death of an infected host does not bring the virus anything but a defeat - the virus dies along with the host. The cause of death is the body's immune response - sometimes the immune system fights so aggressively with the pathogen that it leads to damage to healthy tissues. Roughly speaking, immunity becomes much more dangerous than the virus itself. According to Akiko Iwasaki of Yale School of Medicine, any virus needs time to adapt to its new host. When viruses first test us, they do not know what they are doing, and therefore they tend to cause unusual reactions of the body and cause death.

Does a new coronavirus mutate, meanwhile,remains unknown. Given the speed of its spread, its main goal - reproduction is achieved. Therefore, we can assume that CoVID-19 is unlikely to mutate into an extremely dangerous strain with high mortality. Most likely, after a while and even after the invention of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, it will not go anywhere. Many scientists believe that the virus will circulate among the population like normal SARS and seasonal flu. However, after most of the world's population has been ill with CoVID-19, it will no longer pose such a danger.