Novel coronavirus uses second ‘key’ to infiltrate cells

According to a new study, the new coronavirus is more contagious because it has developed a second “key”, increasing its ability to infiltrate human cells.

SARS-CoV was discovered more than seventeen years ago in China. At the time, it had spread to twenty-six countries and had affected only 8,000 people in 2003.

The new coronavirus seems to be much more contagious. “The starting point of our study was to find out why SARS-CoV, a coronavirus that led to a much smaller outbreak in 2003, and SARS-CoV-2 spread so differently when using the same main ACE2 receptor, ”explained Ravi Ojha, virologist and co-author of the study published in the journal Science.

a new protein

The researchers then studied the genome of the virus and identified the “keys” that allow it to cling to cells and infect them. And it looks like the new virus has a new one. “Unlike its old parent, the new coronavirus had acquired an ‘extra room’ on its surface proteins, which are also found in the spikes of many devastating human viruses, including Ebola virus, HIV and highly pathogenic strains. avian flu, among others, ”said Olli Vapalahti, another virologist who participated in the study.

This new key is the neurophilic transmembrane protein 1. It “could be the one that directs the virus towards the door”, believes Giuseppe Balistreri, also co-author of the study.

So far, Chinese researchers have already identified 149 minor variants of the virus among the 103 genomes analyzed.

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