Fighting against the new coronavirus is more like a battle against unknown for the doctors and scientists. As cases of coronavirus increase, with governments taking all the possible precautions and curative measures, experts are still confused as to how it affects the human body.
The common symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath — can signal any number of illnesses, from flu to the common cold.
Studies conducted by experts at the epicentre of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, have provided some answers. Let us see what they have stated;
How does new coronavirus cause infection?
The virus spread through droplets transmitted into the air due to coughing or sneezing, which people nearby intake through their nose, mouth or eyes. The viral particles in these droplets quickly travel to the back of the nasal passages and the mucous membranes in the back of the throat, attaching to a specific receptor in cells, beginning there.
New Coronavirus particles have spiked proteins pricking out from their surfaces, and these spikes hook onto cell membranes, enabling the virus’s genetic material to enter the human cell.
That genetic material then proceeds to seize the metabolism of the cell makes it help in multiplying the virus.
How does that process create respiratory problems?
As the virus multiplies, they burst out and infect neighbouring cells. The symptoms often start at the back of the throat with a sore throat and a dry cough.
The virus then movies down, once they reach lungs, their mucous membranes become inflamed. This will damage the alveoli or lung sacs, making it hard for the lungs to carry out its function of supplying oxygen to the blood that circulates throughout our body and eliminating carbon dioxide from the blood so that it can be exhaled.
The swelling, along with the impaired flow of oxygen, can make those areas in the lungs to fill with fluid, pus and dead cells further leading to pneumonia, an infection in the lung.
In some cases, this leads to breathing issues wherein the patients need to be put in ventilators. In the worst cases, known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, the lungs fill with so much fluid that even breathing support can’t help, and the patient dies.
What course does the virus take in the lungs?
As per the experts/doctors after examining the coronavirus patients of China, the virus appears to start in outer sections on both sides of the lung and takes a while to reach the upper respiratory tract, the trachea and other central airways.
During the initial testing regimen carried out in Chinese hospitals, they were not able to detect infection in the peripheral lungs. So some people with symptoms were sent home without treatment, wherein the patients move to other hospitals for treatments or remained home and infect their family members which ultimately lead to widespread.
Are the lungs the only part affected by the new coronavirus?
According to expert, the infection can spread through the mucous membranes, from the nose down to the rectum. So while the virus appears to zero in on the lungs, it may also be able to infect cells in the gastrointestinal system causing the patients to have symptoms like diarrhea or indigestion. The virus can also get into the bloodstream.
Moreover, experts say that bone marrow and organs like the liver can become inflamed as well. As found in the SARS viral outbreak back in 2002 and 2003, there may also be some inflammation in small blood vessels.
The virus may ultimately land on organs like the heart, kidney, liver and may cause direct damage to those organs. As the body’s immune system adjusts itself to battle the virus, the resulting inflammation may cause those organs to malfunction. This will lead to damage to one’s own body not by the virus but by the immune system.
Experts have not yet found any evidence whether the coronavirus can affect the brain; however, those who studied the SARS reported stated that the virus could infiltrate the brain in some patients. Given the similarity between SARS and Covid-19, some argue the possibility of new coronavirus infecting, some of the nerve cells can’t be ruled out.
So this makes it clear that there are possibilities of other organs to get affected/damaged by the virus.
Why do some people get very ill while others don’t?
About 80 per cent of people infected with the new coronavirus have relatively mild symptoms. However, 20 per cent of people become more seriously ill, and around 2 per cent of patients in China, the epicentre of the virus, the disease has been fatal.
Experts state that the effect of the virus depends upon the infected person’s immune system–basically how robust/ weak the system is. Older people or those with underlying health issues, like diabetes or another chronic illness, are more likely to develop severe symptoms.
What makes the new coronavirus still a mystery?
Although the new coronavirus resembles SARS in many aspects also has elements in common with influenza and pneumonia, the course a patient’s coronavirus will take is still a mystery.
Some patients can remain stable for over a week and then suddenly develop pneumonia, while some seem to recover but later develop symptoms again. The latter may be due to the damaged and vulnerable lung tissue that was consequently attacked by bacteria in their body.
As per the experts, they are yet to know a lot about the virus, which is one reason for the delay in the development of the antidote.