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The facts

Posted by Dennis on Monday, 4 May 2020, at 5:00 p.m.
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In response to 144034: shut downs, posted by Fred M on Saturday, 2 May 2020, at 7:13 a.m.

The Coronavirus (family Coronaviridae) is a complex pathogen, consisting of an enveloped single-stranded RNA virus, characterized by club-like spikes projecting from its surface. Several members of this family are associated with severe respiratory diseases in humans, but also are capable of infecting multiple host species and generating diverse diseases. The novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, was detected when viral metagenomics was carried out on three bronchoalveolar-lavage specimens from patients with unexplained severe pneumonia.

It is worth recalling tjat prior to the detection of 2019-nCoV, related CoVs of bat origin have caused two pandemics in this century. The CoVs responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome both originated from bats, and it is highly likely that bat coronaviruses will continue to cause future outbreaks.

CoVs have the largest nonsegmented genomes among all RNA viruses. These large genomes enhance plasticity, thereby allowing modification by mutation and recombination, which in turn leads to greater genetic diversity and high chances of cross-species transmission. Zoonotic viruses have caused most of the emerging viral disease outbreaks in recent years, and global virome surveillance programs were launched to evaluate the feasibility of preemptively mitigating pandemic threats. Current surveillance programs have used Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) to ensure unbiased evolutionary analysis of bat CoVs taking into consideration their high genetic diversity.

That prior laboratory surveillance and detection predicted the inevitability of current and future outbreaks emphasizes the rapidity and vehemence with which CoVs are capable of mutating, posing increasingly diverse threats to multiple host species, including humans. Unfortunately, to date, preparations by governments to effect early detection and mitigation of pandemics has been amateurish, at best.

Takeaways: The current pandemic is only the "tip of the iceberg." 2019-nCov will inevitably become the "new norm," mutating seasonally, though far faster and potentially more deadly than influenza or rhinovirus. Though it may (and hopefully will) be possible to develop antidotes for emerging novel coronaviruses, a far greater challenge confronts vaccine development; during the period of 12-18 months required to cultivate a single vaccine, the virus inevitably will mutate and recombine numerous times, potentially rendering the vaccine ineffective or, at a minimum, reducing its effectiveness to only those remnant versions of the previous virus that may be continuing to circulate. Since all related CoVs of bat origin infect multiple host species, they will continue to circulate in nature as well as in mammalian and avian species raised by humans for food. Innoculating livestock will become essential. However, still further challenges will be presented by social faddism and mysticism--e.g. people resisting vaccination, antibiotic use, and science in general.


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