The novel coronavirus can stow away in your throat without you knowing it, and every time you cough you’re broadsiding the people around you with the virus. To stay healthy and contain SARS-CoV-2, stay home and keep your distance.
Population-wide efforts to control coronavirus might not be so straightforward, however. The coronavirus is a clever, elusive, and tough little pathogen that could defy normal vaccines.
Those are two of the main takeaways from an important new study by a team of 18 scientists in Germany.
Working in two separate laboratories, the scientists carefully studied the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the bodies of nine patients, taking daily measurements in order to understand each phase of the infection.
The team completed its study in early March and, published its findings in the journal Nature this month. “Active virus-replication in the upper respiratory tract puts the prospects of COVID-19 containment in perspective,” the scientists wrote.
Close observers of coronavirus studies hailed the German team’s work. There’s “huge news” in the Nature paper, David Ostrov, a professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine, told The Daily Beast.
Some of the news is good.
SARS-CoV-2 starts replicating in the throat, not the lungs. For that reason, a simple throat swab is enough to test for the virus. There’s probably no need for an intrusive, unpleasant nasal swab.
The virus mostly spreads from people coughing on each other. It’s a lot less likely that you’ll catch the coronavirus by touching the same touchpad or toilet handle as an infected person.
It’s probably safe for a hospital to release a COVID-19 patient 10 days after they start showing symptoms.
There’s bad news in the German study, too.
The antibodies our bodies produce in response to COVID-19 infection don’t actually destroy this virus. In that way, it is a lot like HIV.
That has implications for the high-stakes global effort to develop vaccines and other treatments.
Besides containing important takeaways for doctors, scientists, and the public, the German study also tells a story. One that helps to make sense of the pandemic.
Peter Kolchinsky, a virologist and biotech investor, summed up the Nature paper on Twitter. The study, he wrote, “reveals a remarkable trick SARS-CoV-2 learned that makes it nastier than the first SARS,” which killed nearly 800 people during an outbreak in 2003.
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Source: The Daily Beast