Virologist Peter Kolchinsky has described the SARS virus as making “patients got very sick from all the virus replicating in their lungs, they were quarantined before others got close enough to get sneezed or coughed on.” But, the Covid-19 virus has adapted to make it more transmittable and therefore, more deadly. Mr Kolchinsky describes how the new coronavirus “takes up residence in the throat cells first, which doesn’t cause significant symptoms”.
He adds that this makes the person asymptomatic for longer, thus infecting many more people.
Many that first get coronavirus think it is nothing more than a cold and persist their usual daily activities.
But, over the course of a week, in some patients, it will move into the lung neighbourhood and replicate just as SARS did.
Mr Kolchinsky describes this aspect of the disease as being the reason why it is so deadly.
Mr Kolchinsky added: “This makes SARS a comparatively dumb virus.
“It went straight for the lungs, announced itself before it could spread to others, and so got social distanced into extinction.
“But Covid 19, the one plaguing us now, is stealthier, spreading first before revealing itself and causing harm.”
When coronavirus enters the human body, it finds a host cell to infect.
This is the same cold and flu viruses will attack cells that line the respiratory or digestive tracts.
All viruses have some type of protein on the outside coat or envelope that “feels” or “recognises” the proper host cells.
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Coronavirus has gone through two mutations since its discovery.
Most mutations negatively affect the virus.
If mutations are not beneficial to the virus, they are typically eliminated through natural selection, the mechanism of evolution whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive.
Other mutations survive and get embedded into the “average” genome of a virus.
Every virus has a particular type of doorknob that it attaches to and turns so it can enter and infect a cell.
Viruses lie around our environment all of the time just waiting for a host cell to come along.
They can enter us through the nose, mouth or breaks in the skin (see How the Immune System Works for details.
According to the University of Minnesota professor Mark R. Schleiss, coronavirus seems to be able to spread and thrive in the human body.
He added that the SARS virus didn’t have the “fitness to persist in the human population,” which eventually led to its demise.
He added: “Overall, though SARS’ death rate was higher, COVID-19 has led to “more fatalities, more economic repercussions, more social repercussions than we had with SARS.”
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