What makes the new strain of Coronavirus so mysterious?



There is human-to-human transmission. So, an infected person can transmit the virus to other person, who comes in close contact with him/her


The current evidence suggests the virus has not undergone any major mutation


Even as scientists across the world, are racing to solve several mysteries around the new Coronavirus, the killer strain continues to spread, infecting over 7,783 people in 20 countries.


MINT explains some of the key questions, which scientists are rushing to find answers to, in order to contain the deadly outbreak.


How deadly is the infection?


We do not know how the disease progresses in an infected person. Though it’s known to impact lower respiratory tract, its pathogenesis is unknown.


The common symptoms -runny nose, cough, breathing problem, sore throat or fever, vary from case to case.


Not all patients develop Severe Pneumonia, some recover following timely and adequate medical care.


Researchers want to understand, what factors determine the severity of the disease, its case fatality ratio-the proportion of cases that will die as a result of the disease.


So, far out of the 7,783 cases, 25 % have been reported to be severe.


How fast does the virus spread?


There is human-to-human transmission. So, an infected person can transmit the virus to other person, who comes in close contact with him/her.


But how many can he/she infect? Will those secondary cases be as mild or severe as the primary case? Though, current estimates suggest one infected person can transmit it to two to three persons on average, an exact transmissibility or reproduction rate (R0) of the virus is not known. This is crucial to determine if the outbreak could become a pandemic.



How to detect the virus- the screening and diagnostics?


A person may be infected with the virus, but he/she would not know until the symptoms begin to appear.


According to World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period could be between two to ten days, and only a diagnostic test at the health centre could confirm the disease.


But during the period, the person has the ability to transmit the disease to other people, according to China’s National Health Mission.


This poses a challenge in screening the suspected cases at airports, which may be incubating the disease.


Where did the disease come from?


Though Coronaviruses were discovered as early as 1960s, some of its strains have never infected humans.


Out of the seven strains, identified so far, only three have infected humans- resulting in a new outbreak each time- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-03, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2013 and the new strain of Coronavirus in December, 2019.


SARS-Cov was known to have come from bats via civets and MERS- CoV from camels. We do not know the origin of 2019-nCoV and how did it enter humans? This information is needed to develop a potential anti-viral.


What is the risk of mutation?


The current evidence suggests the virus has not undergone any major mutation. If it does, it could make things extremely challenging.


The genomic sequences shared by virologists and microbiologists, isolated from confirmed cases across the world show similarities.


But the scientists continue to monitor the new cases to understand and estimate if and how the virus could mutate.



The search for the vaccine


Several key scientific groups across countries are racing to develop a vaccine for 2019-nCoV.


Even though it may take years for the anti-viral to enter the market, following animal testing, clinical trials and regulatory approvals, any major breakthrough could speed things up.


The genetic sequences of the virus isolated from samples are being widely shared by researchers across the world.


A team in Australia has even succeeded in growing the culture in a laboratory for clinical testing.


At present, there are no anti-virals or drugs that can work against the virus.


Source - Live Mint

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