Abstract: As the novel coronavirus is spreading rapidly and threatening many countries in the world, knowing more about coronavirus may help you overcome your panic.

Just in the first 3 months of 2020, the Words of the Year has already found its candidate – coronavirus. People who have pets may be more familiar with this word a long time ago since canine parvovirus and canine coronavirus are two main killers of puppies. However, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is threatening global health with stunning speed and sweep. So, what is coronavirus? Why is it so dangerous?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. They are enveloped viruses with positive sense, single-stranded RNA genomes. Its genome size ranges from 26 to 32 kilobases (kb) in length and encodes a large polyprotein (ORF1a/b) that is proteolytically cleaved to generate 15 or 16 non-structural proteins. The name coronavirus is derived from the Latin corona, meaning "crown" or "halo", which refers to the appearance reminiscent of a crown or a solar corona around the virions when viewed under microscopy.

Coronaviruses can be divided into two subfamilies, Coronaviridae and Torovirinae. Coronavirus subfamilies are divided into α, β, γ, δ four genera. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. The seven coronaviruses that can infect people are common human coronaviruses including 229E (α coronavirus), NL63 (α coronavirus), OC43 (β coronavirus), HKU1 (β coronavirus), and other human coronaviruses including MERS-CoV (the β coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS), SARS-CoV (the β coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS) and SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19).
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. However, in more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Sound terrible though, coronaviruses do have medical value according to researches. Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Utrecht University published a paper in May 2005, showing that the mouse hepatitis coronavirus (MHV) have the potential to destroy tumor cells in vitro. In order to produce genetically targeted oncolytic coronaviruses, they incorporated the gene encoding the peptide-tag adapter in the MHV genome in a way that during infection continuous amounts of adapter are produced, thereby enabling the progeny virus to reinfect new cells. This resulted in genetically targeted coronaviruses, which were able to specifically infect, and replicate in human cancer cells expressing the specific targeting receptor, consequently leading to rapid cell death. This research proved that some coronaviruses may have the potential to be efficient in oncolytic virotherapy.

Above all, with limited technology, everything in nature is hard to understand and exploring will never stop. Recently, facing the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, global scientists are dedicating to finding ways in which the detection is more accurate and the treatment is more efficient.

The Standard recommendations for the public are to wash hands regularly, cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cook meat and eggs. It is also right that we must not panic. There are causes for optimism; reasons to think there may be ways to contain and defeat the virus, and lessons to learn for the future.

Author's Bio: 

Creative Biolabs