A British man suspected to have contracted the new coronavirus from his father has died in Birmingham. Meanwhile, a new study has been published, showing that the virus, which is similar to SARS, has mutated to efficiently attack human cells.
A new study published on Tuesday in mBio journal examined how quickly the virus multiplied in human bronchial cells, compared to SARS (which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and another older coronavirus, which causes the common cold. The results showed that newer pathogen multiplied quicker than SARS, and as fast as that cold-causing microorganism.
“We were a bit surprised that it can so easily infect those cells,” said author Volker Thiel from the Institute of Immunobiology is at the Kantonal Hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Genetic tests on animal strains of the virus shows that the new infection could have migrated to humans from bats.
“If an animal virus gets into the human population, one assumes that some adaptation is needed. As we have seen for instance for SARS, there was a phase of adaptation to the human cells, to the receptor. And obviously that is not needed for this new coronavirus,” said Thiel in an interview with the Canadian Press.
Thiel notes that the ease with which the virus spreads through the cells does not necessarily mean that the virus is easily transmitted between people – a key factor in starting an epidemic.