Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Coronavirus: Does Not Trigger an Innate Immune Response; Adaptation to Human Lungs Complete

[an additional excerpt from The Canadian Press article in the previous post]

The source of the new virus is still unknown. As such, there are many unanswered — and currently unanswerable — questions about how much of a risk the virus poses to people. No one can say at this point whether it will fade away, continue to trigger the occasional infection or start to spread easily from person to person.

But the question of whether the virus would need to evolve more to gain the power to infect human lungs does seem to have been answered.

"If an animal virus gets into the human population, one assumes that some adaptation is needed," Thiel said.

"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."

Still, he cautioned that just because the virus can easily infect human lung cells doesn't mean it has all the tools it would need to take off and spread widely among people.

"We have shown that the airway cells can easily be infected. But this does not mean that the virus can easily be transmitted," Thiel said. "I think this distinction is important."

The study also found that all three coronaviruses seem to be able to slip past the immune system because they don't trigger much of an innate immune response. The innate immune system is the so-called first line of defence.

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