A Look at the Deadly, Spiky Covid-19 Particle
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- This is the particle responsible for Covid-19, the pneumonia-causing disease spreading around the world. The virus is called SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.
Like other coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 has viral spike proteins, called peplomers, on its surface that allow it to infect human cells.
Within the “envelope” of the virus is a long, single-stranded RNA genome.
• Targeting humans
SARS-CoV-2 spikes bind on the human cell surface to receptors called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
• Infection sites
Human cells that express ACE2 are vulnerable to infection. These are present along the epithelium lining the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, including on the tongue and stomach.
• Latching on
The spikes latch on to human cells and undergo a structural change, allowing their membrane to fuse with the host cell membrane. The viral genes can then enter the host cell and multiply.
• Lethal pneumonia
The vast surface area of the lungs makes it highly susceptible to inhaled viruses, with the alveoli sacs that help bring oxygen into the blood vulnerable to invasion.
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