Coronavirus Basics; This Is a Hardy Little Bugger

By April 15, 2020 Commentary

What seems like eons ago in one of the first posts on coronavirus, I tried to give people a little background on what a coronavirus is.  I will repeat some of that here.  A virus is an interesting phenomenon, not quite considered a living entity, but having some characteristics of living organisms.  A virus is basically a fairly complex biochemical that exists to do nothing but replicate.  They consist of envelope proteins to protect the virus core and other proteins that assist in finding and “infecting” a host and then replicating the virus. We are all subjected to a variety of infectious agents every day, including a number of coronaviruses.  These infectious agents may be transmitted by a variety of mechanisms, including by environmental contact with various surfaces, bodily fluids, non-human hosts, or through the air.  Viruses tend to mutate regularly and new variants arise that may be more infectious or lethal than existing strains.  That is what has happened with the current coronavirus.  This strain is transmitted, as best we know now, by contact with contaminated surfaces, by direct contact between people via exhaled droplets containing the virus, and by airborne transmission of virus particles.  Research suggests that the virus may be somewhat persistent in the air and on surfaces.  The virus, like most respiratory viruses, primarily appears to enter through the airway passages and it appears to generally enter cells through a receptor called ACE, or angiotension converting enzyme, which plays a major role in blood pressure regulation.   What the virus really lives for is to replicate.  So when it gets inside a cell it heads for the mechanisms that can create new proteins and other biochemicals and tells those mechanisms to make more of the virus. An incredibly large number of virus particles can be created, they migrate out of the cell and infect other cells, and if exhaled or otherwise expelled from the body, they can infect other persons.  The main method by which the virus causes serious disease is both causing lung, and potentially other organ, dysfunction and actually prompting an excessive immune response, which damages and kills cells in the process of trying to fight the virus.  So that is a very basic description.  You can find a lot more easily with an internet search.

This virus is a threat because it both seems to be relatively easily transmitted and it has lethality, at least for vulnerable patient groups, like the infirm elderly.  A recent new study suggests that unlike some coronaviruses, this one may be more heat resistant.  Heat and humidity appear to hinder the existence and replication of many viruses, probably because they degrade the envelope protecting the virus’ core more quickly.  According to this research, the current coronavirus strain is pretty heat resistant (CV Study)   The researchers heated the virus to a pretty high temperature and at least some of it survived.  They had to get it up to almost the boiling point of water to eradicate it completely.  So this strain may be particularly hardy.  This would dampen hopes that there could be a seasonal component to the virus’ activity.  And it likely means that extra caution needs to be taken in decontamination efforts, to ensure complete elimination of virus particles.

I am not a conspiracy nut, but given some of the characteristics of this virus and the proximity of the Wuhan bio-research lab that was working on modifying coronaviruses to the epicenter of the virus, it is worth exploring whether this is an escaped, modified virus.  In any event, we are fortunate that despite its apparent high transmissibility and hardiness, the virus seems to be unable to infect or cause serious illness in the vast majority of the population.

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