In January 2020, the World Health Organization announced the discovery of a new virus causing infectious respiratory disease. This virus, called COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV-2), is a new coronavirus differing from the viruses responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003 and for the MERS outbreak. The formerly named 2019-nCoV has rapidly grown to a worldwide pandemic and evolved through many variants of different infection and transmission patterns. Researchers all over the world are involved in the research for a new solutions aiming at:
- detecting the virus
- mitigating the propagation of the virus
- curing infected people
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Sars CoV Science
Evolution of the epidemic
The first place of identification of this virus was in Wuhan, China. The infections rapidly spread to touch the whole planet. SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from humans to humans via saliva or respiratory droplets, and assumingly via contaminated surfaces. The incubation period depends on the host but is in range of a few days. The symptoms attributed to the infection are numerous especially affecting respiration. As the virus reached new localization, it mutated and hundreds of variants were distinguished. As the pandemic was widening several nomenclature were given for the variants as their first location of observation or Greek letters that were approved by WHO. Thus the Variants of interest, as mentioned by the WHO have been UK or Alpha, South African or Beta, Brazilian or Gamma and Indian or Delta variants, all carrying a different set of mutations.
Structure of the virus
The single stranded RNA of the virion is hold by Nucleocapsid proteins which are surrounded by membrane (M), envelope (E) and spike proteins (S). The latter point out of the viral envelope and enable the binding of the virus. The Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) is part of the spike proteins. It is the fragment targeted in recognitions and the one whose mutations differentiate in the variants. The RBD has a special affinity for angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a receptor found on cells membranes and used by the virus to enter it. Nonstructural proteins have also been identified. Although their role is not fully understood some of them, such as Nsp3 have been identified to help replication.