Coronavirus Turns Patient’s Cells Into Virus Factories

When COVID-19 Attacks, Patient's Cells Turn into Virus Factories

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Having no equipment of its own, the virus commandeers the cell's machinery to make copies of its genetic code. Pixabay

By Steve Baragona

When the COVID-19 virus attacks, it turns the patient’s own cells into virus factories. This is the latest health and science research.

It starts at the surface of the cell, when the virus latches on to a protein that normally helps regulate the patient’s blood pressure. The cell unwittingly brings the virus inside, where the attacker unloads its cargo: instructions for making more virus.

Having no equipment of its own, the virus commandeers the cell’s machinery to make copies of its genetic code, manufacture more virus shells and deliver packaged germs to the cell surface, where they go on to infect more cells.  

Drugs already on pharmacists’ shelves act on various parts of that machinery. Though they may not be intended as antiviral drugs, in the scramble to treat the rising toll of COVID-19 infections, scientists are hoping that these existing drugs might offer some help.

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An employee of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research workflow on a vaccine for the corona virus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany. VOA

“We don’t have the luxury of a five-year drug discovery program. We need the agents now,” said Warner Greene, a physician and researcher at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology. 

The search has turned up some oddball candidates. Anti-cancer drugs, heart disease medications, a drug against schizophrenia and a treatment for Parkinson’s disease have all turned up as possibilities. Testing is already under way for chloroquine, an antimalarial drug.

Mysterious ways 

Despite all the science behind drug development, scientists often don’t know exactly how medications work.

“In a lot of cases, we don’t know all their mechanisms of action. Sometimes we actually find that there are effects that we didn’t recognize initially,” said University of Manitoba virologist Jason Kindrachuk.

These therapies also may prove useful because drugs frequently have multiple effects. Our cells often use the same machinery to do different jobs, Kindrachuk said, and a drug that acts on one part of the machinery may produce more than one result.

Sometimes the results are unwanted side effects. But sometimes they offer opportunities to treat entirely different conditions.

When bald men taking the blood pressure medication minoxidil grew hair, the drug was repurposed as the blockbuster hair-growth product Rogaine.

Viagra was originally developed to treat chest pains from heart disease. Its impacts on erectile dysfunction were an unexpected — and lucrative — surprise.

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Researchers at the Microbiology Research Facility work with coronavirus samples as a trial begins to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of the corona virus disease (COVID-19), at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. VOA

Better together 

But a drug designed for something else may not work as well against a virus.

“I do think that we might find a drug that’s moderately effective, or several drugs that are moderately effective.” And then the question is, what if you put those two moderately effective drugs together? Can they synergize and can you get a very potent antiviral? That’s our plan,”  Greene said.

His group is screening thousands of drugs to see if they work against the virus in a test tube. He hopes to have results in two or three months. Several teams are pursuing similar strategies, using robots to run large numbers of tests at once.

Other scientists are working to unravel how the virus interacts with the different processes happening inside human cells, and looking for drugs that act on those processes.

Also Read- WhatsApp Experiences Greatest Gains Amid Lockdown

It’s very early-stage research. Any drug that looks good in these tests would need to be tested on animals, and then on small groups of people, to be sure it does not do more harm than good.

Greene cautions there is a long way to go.

“It’s a first step,” he said. “There’s lots of false leads there. But there are leads.” (VOA)

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Social Media: A Boon Amid Lockdown

Social media has proved itself a boon, be it dealing with a crisis or emergency and sometimes even saving a life

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Social media has proved its worth in these times. Pixabay

BY PUJA GUPTA

There have been several incidents when social media has proved itself a boon; be it dealing with a crisis or emergency and sometimes even saving a life. There are various groups and communities formed on different platforms that work as a support system of communities.

‘My Pincode’ is one such group on Facebook that was launched by the NGO Social Media Matters in April when the entire country was confined in their houses. It is about local groups on Facebook to virtually connect, communicate, collaborate and create a support system for each other in their respective pincode areas. These groups bring together users, community leaders, subject matter experts, resource points and organizations at a very hyper-local level to provide immediate support, relief, and share critical information.

Blood donation, ration supply, repair work, daily essential information, government advisories are the highlights of My Pincode as these demands top the charts across posts made by users. Partners like Sarvahitey, Akshay Patra Foundation, Blood Bank were fundamental in their roles to look into all the requests and take immediate action.

Shantanu Garg, who lives in West Delhi, posted on the group requesting for a blood donor on behalf of a friend. Within a few hours, moderators of the group who tagged all volunteers and other admins and started reaching out to other blood donor agencies were able to arrange the required amount of blood. There have also been other instances of such donor requests. Sajal Bhateja’s request for urgent requirement of blood on South Delhi Group was also addressed in two hours.

Social Media
There are various groups and communities formed on different platforms that work as a support system of communities. Pixabay

Other topics that are being discussed on the groups are:

Which is the nearest clinic I can visit?

Where can I get emergency help?

What does the situation look like right now on the roads?

What are the queues like at the shops?

How much longer will supplies last?

Are courier services working in the area?

Which are the nearest Government and Private Testing Centres?

Can I visit the police stations?

Are postal services working in the area?

How do I obtain a curfew pass?

What is the situation at the hospitals?

Are there any blood donor requests?

In an attempt to bring together communities from 170 hotspots of India across 17 states (as identified by the Central Government of India in April 15, 2020) and crowdsource help, open groups have been formed and are being managed by moderators and group admins, trained by the NGO. It will be further extended to 32 states and union territories.

Social media
Social media groups bring together users, community leaders, subject matter experts, resource points, and organizations at a very hyper-local level to provide immediate support. Pixabay

Each state has a moderator and several admins who have been moderating the discussions and letting users connect with each other for essential and verified information as to keep fake profiles/information away.

Also Read: Beat Summer Heat With these Coolers

Every day the lead moderators sift through all the groups to look for any inappropriate content that is posted/approved/queried. As soon as users post on the group, the network of admins gets activated and they look into the prime information or request made by the user. Once that is identified, the request is verified and then the network gets activated to resolve the request. (IANS)

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3 Live Coronaviruses Don’t Match COVID-19 in Wuhan Lab

Three strains of live coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology don't match the virus that causes COVID-19

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None of the 3 live Coronaviruses in Wuhan lab matched the virus that causes COVID-19. Pixabay

There are three strains of live coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but none matches the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the director of the institute.

In an interview to state broadcaster CGTN aired on Saturday night, Wang Yanyi said that any suggestion that the SARS-CoV-2 leaked from her institute is “pure fabrication”.

After the COVID-19 outbreak started in Wuhan late last year and eventually became a global pandemic, the biosafety laboratory in China’s Hubei province has been in the eye of a storm as conspiracy theories suggesting the virus could have leaked from the lab started gaining traction.

Those were later even picked by US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

However, Wang stressed that the “current consensus of the international academic community is that the virus originated from wild animals.”

She also underlined the need for global cooperation to find answers to questions such as where the viruses that are highly similar to SARS-CoV-2 are.

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The world need to cooperate over this as there are many viruses that are highly similar to SARS-CoV-2. (Representational Image). Pixabay

“Now we have three strains of live viruses. One of them has the highest similarity, 96 per cent to the SARS virus. But their highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 only reaches 79.8 per cent,” Wang told the broadcaster.

Also Read: Homecations: The New Way To Unwind This Summer Amid Lockdown

Over 5.3 million people in the world have so far tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 3,40,000 have died due to the pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Wang said that her institute first received the clinical sample of the unknown pneumonia on December 30 last year. Before that they did not know the virus even existed.

“After we checked the pathogen within the sample, we found it contained a new coronavirus, which is now called SARS-CoV-2. We didn’t have any knowledge before that, nor had we ever encountered, researched or kept the virus,” she said. (IANS)

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DMRC Uses Pictorial Messages to Spread Awareness on COVID-19

The campaign of pictorial awareness has been planned under the supervision of DMRC's Safety department

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DMRC spreads awareness among citizens about COVID-19 through pictorial messages. Wikimedia Commons

Amid lockdown 4.0 and halted service of the metro rail in the city, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is engaged in spreading awareness about COVID-19 disease at its construction sites through pictorial messages, according to Covid-19 pandemic in India updates.

In a press statement, the DMRC said, “Along with all conventional methods to raise awareness about this pertinent issue, a number of pictorial awareness messages have been painted at DMRC’s sites so that the workers keep getting reminded about the precautions while at work.”

The campaign has been planned under the supervision of DMRC’s Safety department.

The DMRC asserted that all relevant government guidelines and advisories have been taken into consideration while planning the content. Easy language and pictorials have been used so that the messages are satisfactorily conveyed.

The DMRC said that getting the messages painted was a major challenge as most of the painters, who are generally engaged for such assignments, were unavailable during the ongoing lockdown. As an alternative mechanism, printed banners in flex were installed at a number of locations. “While the messages are largely bilingual, a lot of focus has been laid on the use of Hindi as a lot of workers are more proficient in reading Hindi,” said the DMRC.

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Painters were unavailable for making such messages because of the lockdown, said DMRC. (Representational Image). Pixabay

At present, the corporation is carrying out construction at about five to six different sites in the city including work sites of Dhansa, Airport Express Line expansion work in Dwarka as well as sites/casting yards for Phase 4 projects.

Also Read: Cybercrime on Rise During Pandemic, Warns UN

It said that all guidelines set by the government agencies are being implemented while resuming works and contractors and workers are being sensitised about the precautionary guidelines at the beginning of work during the tool workshops.

“Displays with the necessary information regarding social distancing have been installed at the sites. Masks, sanitizers and thermal scanners have been made available at the sites as well. DMRC’s engineers are keeping a very close eye at the sites to ensure all norms are followed,” it said. (IANS)