Biologists from Cornell University in the United States have studied the structure of the emerging coronavirus, and discover features that, according to their beliefs, explain why it is so rapid and infection.
According to the Journal of Molecular Biology, to understand why the SARS-CoV-2 virus is so prevalent and infectious among people, biologists at Cornell University have compared its structure with the structure of the previously known corona virus.
The researchers note, that despite the fact that 86% of the genomic sequences in the structure of SARS-CoV-2 virus match the structure of SARS-CoV-1 virus that was previously discovered in 2003, it has a feature similar to HCoV-HKU1.
However, SARS-CoV-1 virus causes a high mortality rate of 10%, but it does not spread quickly. The HCoV-HKU1 virus, although relatively harmless, is highly contagious and rapidly spreading. That is why scientists believe that the combination of these properties made the SARS-CoV-2 virus so dangerous.
The researchers also discovered, in the structure of the protein S of the emerging virus, a component that helps it penetrate into human cells, which is a special link consisting of a chain consisting of four consecutive amino acids that are not present in the corona viruses known to scientists.
It turns out to the researchers that the thorns on the surface of the virus are made up of protein S, with which they help, with the help of the ring, adhere strongly to the receptors of healthy human cells, ensuring its ease of penetration later. The researchers point out that the strength of adhesion of protein S in the novel corona virus to human cell receptors is ten times greater than that of SARS-CoV-1.
“SARS-CoV-2 in its structure combines peculiar characteristics – deaths and infection. We believe that the link in its structure is very important for the transmission, stability, or both,” says Professor Gary Whitaker, head of the research team, a virologist.
Moreover, according to the researchers, the risk of this virus can be explained by the fact that the SAR protein of SARS-CoV-2 activates the Furin enzyme found in various parts of the human body, including the lungs, liver, and small intestine. And the presence of this enzyme in the tissues of these organs, indicates that the virus is able to attack a number of members of the body at one time. Hence its great danger to humans.
In addition to primates, the researchers point out, cats, weasels and mink animals are also susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, because receptors on the surface of their cells are similar to those on the surface of human cells. However, the infection of the cats with the disease is mild and there is no confirmation of transmission of the infection to humans.
In addition, cats have a special line of corona viruses, which scientists plan to study soon, because they believe this will help them better understand the characteristics of SARS-CoV-2.