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Coronavirus and Beyond

In December, 2019, a pneumonia associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) emerged in Wuhan, China. On Feb. 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the threat assessment of the coronavirus to its highest level.

COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. The most likely ecological reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2 are bats, but it is believed that the virus jumped the species barrier to humans from another intermediate animal host. This intermediate animal host could be a domestic food animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal which has not yet been identified.

Just Innocent Viral Fevers till the 1990s

In May 1997, a 3-year-old boy developed what at first seemed like the common cold in China. When his symptoms of sore throat, fever, and cough persisted for six days, he was taken to the hospital. There his cough worsened, and he began gasping for air. Despite intensive care, the boy died.

The results eventually confirmed that this was a variant of influenza, the virus that has killed more people than any in history. But this type had never before been seen in humans. It was H5N1, or “avian flu,” discovered two decades prior, but known only to infect birds.

The Chinese government swiftly killed 1.5 million chickens (over the protests of chicken farmers). Further cases were closely monitored and isolated. By the end of the year there were 18 known cases in humans. Six people died. In part, containment was possible because the disease was so severe: Those who got it became manifestly, extremely ill. H5N1 has a fatality rate of about 60 percent, if someone get it, that someone is likely not to survive. Yet since 2003, the virus has killed only 455 people.

Severe illness caused by viruses such as H5N1 also means that infected people can be identified and isolated, or that they died quickly. They do not walk around feeling just a little under the weather, seeding the virus.

Unlike the Coronavirus!!

The world has responded with unprecedented speed and mobilization of resources. The new virus was identified extremely quickly. Its genome was sequenced by Chinese scientists and shared around the world within weeks. The global scientific community has shared genomic and clinical data at unprecedented rates. Efforts on a vaccine is well underway. The Chinese government enacted dramatic containment measures, and the World Health Organization declared an emergency of international concern. All of this happened, in a fraction of the time, it took to even identify H5N1 in 1997.

And yet the outbreak continues to spread, and shall continue to spread.

No Vaccine: RNA Virus

Just as natural selection has shaped the evolution of humans, plants, and all living things on the planet, natural selection shapes viruses, too. The human immune system uses a number of tactics to fight pathogens. The pathogen’s job is to evade the immune system, create more copies of itself, and spread to other hosts.

One way hosts protect themselves from a virus is to develop antibodies to it. Antibodies lock onto the outer surface proteins of a virus and prevent it from entering host cells. A virus that appears different from other viruses that have infected the host has an advantage: the host has no pre-existing immunity, in the form of antibodies, to that virus

Coronavirus are RNA( Ribonucleic acid) viruses, meaning that their genetic material is encoded in RNA, not DNA(Deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA is a more stable molecule than RNA, and DNA viruses have a proofreading check as part of their reproductive process. They manage to use the host cell to verify viral DNA replication. If the virus makes a mistake in copying the DNA, the host cell can often correct the mistake. DNA viruses, therefore, do not change, or mutate, much. RNA, however, is an unstable molecule, and RNA viruses don’t have a built-in proofreading step in their replication. Mistakes in copying RNA happen frequently, and the host cell does not correct these mistakes. RNA virus mutations are frequent and can have important consequences for their hosts.

Common cold and flu are RNA Virus, thence body cannot develop an antibody for it. It shall evolve though incongruently, and strike again each season, however body can fight it every time, mostly. Similarly, Coronavirus, if turns out to be RNA Type, it is typically likely to cause less harm however shall reoccur in each conducive season.

Way Ahead

Now and in Future

Health officials from WHO have noted that American Pharmaceutical Gilead’s Remdesivir, which had a failed trial for Ebola, has demonstrated efficacy in treating the coronavirus infection. The US, commenced clinical trials in humans at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre to test the safety and efficacy of the drug. The first patient to be administered the drug is an evacuee from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Favilavir, another likely approved coronavirus drug in China, wherein the National Medical Products Administration of China has approved the use of Favilavir, an anti-viral drug, as a treatment for coronavirus. The drug has reportedly shown efficacy in treating the disease with minimal side effects in a clinical trial involving 70 patients. The clinical trial is being conducted in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

The frequent emergence or re-emergence of deadly viral infections has significantly affected human health despite extraordinary progress in biomedical knowledge. High population density, rampant constructions, poor sanitation, changing climate, and the introduction of anthropophagic vectors create selective pressure on hosts and pathogen reservoirs.

In future specific geographical regions or interfaces between humans, livestock, wildlife, and the environment need to be targeted for intense surveillance. In this way, further extensive research will surely enhance our understanding and capacity for predicting new pandemics and preparing control measures in advance.

Viewpoint

While vaccines may come up, locally for a specific time period, this Virus being a RNA type, shall evolve beating it in due time, every time. While administration of medicines are already showing promising results.

With targeted medicines, protocol of treatment shall also continue to get better, and risk assessment of weather and localization shall also be very clear. It is likely that by fall this year, medicines and treatment protocols shall be rolled out and Virus shall be effectively managed.

However, it shall return each season, just like normal cold and flu, and shall affect the susceptible, regionally and/or age-wise.

02 Mar 20/Monday                                                                     Written By: Fayaz

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