(The writer is Software engineer/writer. He can be
contacted at [email protected])
A coronavirus is known to cause infections in animals but when it infects a human – it usually causes mild respiratory infections. However, since December 2019, many cases of serious Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection in human happened in China that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). This has happened because a new kind of coronavirus called novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) started spreading in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, after people developed pneumonia without a clear cause and for which existing treatments were not effective. That’s why this virus is also called Wuhan coronavirus and this virus is thought to have a zoonotic origin and must have evolved in a way that it became deadly to humans. The first known human infection occurred in early December 2019. The virus subsequently spread to all other parts of China and also to more than twenty other countries in Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania.
Human-to-human spread of the virus has been confirmed in China, Germany, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States. On January 30, 2020, 2019-nCoV was designated a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). As of 30 January 2020 (16:00 UTC), there were 8,235 confirmed cases of infection, of which 8,124 were within mainland China and the number of deaths was 213 as of January 31, 2020.
Transmission and incubation:
This virus can transmit from human to human and it can also come from seafood. This virus can result in 1.4 to 3.8 new cases per established infection and the virus is able to transmit along a chain of at least four people. Animals sold for food are suspected to be the reservoir or the intermediary for transmission of this virus because many of the first identified infected individuals were workers at the Huanan Seafood Market. In 2003, a market selling live animals for food was found to be the source of transmission – such markets are considered to be incubators for novel pathogens. However, some researchers have suggested that the Huanan Seafood Market may not be the main source of viral transmission to humans.
The incubation period of this viral infection is 2-10 days and that means, if a person gets infected with this virus then it might take up to 10 days to get symptoms. As the infected person may remain asymptomatic up to 10 days, it’s very difficult to know if anyone is infected with Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), initially. That’s why it’s better not to travel to China at this time and avoid animal food.
The symptoms of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection is similar to influenza and initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, dry cough, shortness of breath, and respiratory distress. Cases of severe infection can result in pneumonia, kidney failure, and death. Upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose or sore throat are less frequent. There is evidence that it can be contagious before the onset of symptoms. Symptoms include fever, coughing, and breathing difficulties, and it may be fatal.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the testing for Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection should be done at a specialized laboratory using real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR). The test is done on respiratory samples for the individuals who are suspected to be infected with this virus. Blood samples are also tested for symptomatic individuals within the first week of the illness and then another blood sample is taken 3-4 weeks later. In order to control the outbreak of this infection, the diagnosis of suspected individuals should be done as early as possible.
Many doctors believe that there is no effective treatment for Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection and one can take only Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs to get symptomatic relief only. Doctors also recommend to take plenty of fluids and bed rest during any flu-like infection. The seriously infected patients are treated at the hospital to reduce their symptoms using management drugs only. As there is no drug to cure Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection – prevention a better choice. That’s why to prevent this infection, the WHO recommends “regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Also one should avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness (such as coughing and sneezing).
Elderberry and interferon therapy:
Many fruits like elderberry and grape may hold the answer for the treatment of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection. Berries like elderberry contain a flavonoid called Cyanidin-3-sambubioside which acts like a Neuraminidase inhibitor. A Neuraminidase inhibitor is any molecule that can inhibit the production of viral neuraminidase enzyme. Viruses like coronavirus use neuraminidase enzyme to replicate in human body and inhibiting it can stop the infection. Many antiviral drugs like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir used for the treatment of Influenza or Swine flu, also works the same way. Therefore, taking berries high in Cyanidin-3-sambubioside, might reduce or prevent the infection. Moreover, berries are rich in vitamin C and it helps to boost the immune system too.
Taking interferon therapy could also cure Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection. Interferon are signalling proteins that are released in the human body during any infection. It can signal the immune system to fight against any infection. Interferons also increases the enzyme known as protein kinase R (PKR). This enzyme helps in reducing the protein synthesis and protects the human body cells against viral infections. Another cellular enzyme called RNAse L – induced by interferon action – destroys RNA within the cells to further reduce protein synthesis of both viral and host genes. Inhibiting the protein synthesis by interferon, disables viral replication and stops viral infection in human body. Besides that, interferons can also increase the production of many useful proteins that helps to fight viral infections. Interferons also increases protein p53 production and that helps to kill the virus-infected cells in the human body – speeding the recovery process.
The Interferon beta-1b, which is generally used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), may be useful for the treatment of Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection, according to one research study.
The treatment for Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) can be better understood only by finding the phylogenetic tree of the mutation history of its family of viruses using genome sequencing. Highly accurate genome sequencing can be done using supercomputers and a supercomputer will able to find the origin of the Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) using genome sequencing algorithms. There is no vaccine for coronavirus but the research is still going on and it might be possible to come up with a better vaccine with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) software. Just like the researchers at Flinders University (Australia) – who developed a better flu vaccine using an AI software program called SAM (Search Algorithm for Ligands). SAM was programmed using such algorithms that when it runs on a computer, it will do only one task – to search for all the compounds it possibly can in order to find a ligand: a substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule in order to serve a biological purpose. In other words, it will find a drug for human disease and it was able to find a better flu vaccine also. This confirmed that AI software like SAM not only has the ability to identify good drugs but in fact had come up with better human immune drugs than currently exist. Creating new drugs and vaccines usually takes a lot of time and it sometimes takes years. For the research and development of drugs, a lot of money is spent and many lives are also lost. But with the help of Artificial Intelligence and supercomputers, drugs can be created with less amount of time and money. Therefore, I think it will be also possible to make a vaccine for Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), using AI and supercomputers. However, berries and interferon might help in the treatment of coronavirus presently.