A simple virus has stopped life as we know it.
We’ve faced viral threats before, including epidemics, but the world hasn’t stopped with every new infection or flu season.
So what makes this virus different? What is the unique elusive nature of its biological composition that makes it a unique threat to our bodies and our lives?
The master of deception
In the early stages of infection, the virus is able to trick the body. Coronavirus can spread in the lungs and airways, and yet our immune system thinks everything is fine.
Professor Paul Lehner from the University of Cambridge says: “This virus is amazing, it allows you to have a viral plant in your nose and feel completely better.”
This is because our body’s cells begin to release chemicals called interferons, whose hijacking by a virus is a warning signal to the rest of the body and the immune system.
Professor Lehner says that the Corona virus has an “amazing ability” to stop this chemical warning, and adds, “It does so well that you don’t even know you are sick.”
He says that when you look at the infected cells in the laboratory, you cannot know that they are infected, yet tests show that they “scream the virus” and this is just one of the “Joker cards” that the virus can play with.
This virus is behaving Like a killer “يMultiplication andيEscaped”
The amount of virus in our bodies starts to peak the day before the disease begins. But it takes at least a week before Covid develops to the point where people need treatment in hospital.
“This is a really cool tactic in evolution,” says Professor Lehner. “You don’t go to bed but go out and have a good time.”
Therefore, the virus is like a dangerous driver fleeing the scene of the accident after its commission, the virus has passed to the next victim long before we recovered or died. In stark terms, “the virus doesn’t care” if you die, and as Professor Lehner puts it: “This is a virus that hits and escapes.”
This reflects a great contrast with the original SARS virus, which dates back to 2002, as the most times when this virus is contagious are the days after people become ill, so it was easy to isolate them.
It’s new, so our bodies aren’t ready for it
Do you remember the last pandemic? In 2009 there were major concerns about the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.
However, it turns out that it is not as deadly as expected, since the elderly already have some immunity. The new strain was similar enough to some strains encountered in the past.
There are 4 types of corona viruses that infect humans and cause symptoms of the common cold. “This is a new species, so we don’t think there is a lot of pre-immunity to it,” said Professor Tracy Hassel of the University of Manchester.
She adds that the novelty of SARS-Cove-2, the official name for COVID-19, could represent “a huge shock to your immune system.”
This lack of prior immunity can be compared when the Europeans took smallpox with them to the New World, with the fatal consequences it had.
Building an immune defense from scratch is a real problem for older adults because their immune system is slow.
Learning to fight a new infection involves a lot of trial and error on the part of the immune system.
But with age we produce a less diverse group of T cells, which are an essential component of the immune system, so it is difficult to find the ones that can defend against the Corona virus.
It does strange and unexpected things to the body
Covid begins as a lung disease (although it does happen strange and unusual things) and it can affect the whole body.
Professor Mauro Giacca of Kings College Hospital in the British capital, London, says that many aspects of Covid disease are “unique” to the disease, but in fact it “differs from any other common viral disease.”
He says that the virus does more than just kill lung cells, it also corrupts them, as cells have been seen merging together into huge and disrupted cells called cynthia, and it seems that they remain.
Professor Giacca says you can have a “complete regeneration” of the lungs after acute influenza, but “that does not happen” with Covid.
“It’s a kind of strange infection,” said Professor Giacca.
Blood clots also happen strangely in Covid, with stories of doctors not being able to insert a tube into a patient because blood clots prevent it right away.
Professor Beverly Hunt, of Kings College Hospital in London, says that blood clotting chemicals are “200 percent, 300 percent and 400 percent higher” than usual for some Covid patients.
Professor Beverly Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health program: “Quite frankly, throughout a very long career I have not seen any group of patients with such sticky blood.”
These effects can be on the whole body due to the porous entrance through which the virus travels to infect our cells, called the ACE2 receptor, and is found throughout the body including blood vessels, liver, kidneys, as well as the lungs.
The virus can cause rapid inflammation in some patients, causing the immune system to over-run, with severe consequences for the rest of the body.
And we are fatter than we should be
Covid is worse if you are obese, because generous waistlines increase the risk of needing intensive care or exposure to death.
This is unusual.
Professor Sir Stephen O’Reilly, from the University of Cambridge, said: “Its strong association with obesity is something we have not seen with other viral infections, as with other lung infections, obese people are often better and not worse.”
He added, “It seems very specific to Covid, and it is likely to occur in pandemic influenza, but not the regular flu.”
Fat accumulated throughout the body and in organs such as the liver, causes a metabolic disorder that appears to combine poorly with the Coronavirus.
Obese patients are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation in the body and of proteins that can lead to clotting.