A new research finding has been brought to light that the new type of coronavirus named COVID-19 has an HIV-like mutation, which makes its ability to bind with human cells to 1,000 times stronger than the SARS virus. This means that the new coronavirus can be 1,000 times as much infectious as SARS.
Professor Ruan Jishou and his research team at Nankai University in Tianjin announced that after analyzing the genome sequence of the new coronavirus, they found a combination of mutated genes that do not exist in SARS but are similar to those detected in HIV and Ebola virus. The findings were published on Chinarxiv.org, an online platform of research papers operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to the researchers, SARS viruses enter the human body by sticking to a receptor protein called ACE2 existing on the surface of human cells. But the outbreak of SARS made a relatively small impact of infecting about 8,000 around the world as the ACE2 protein is rarely found in a healthy human body.
The mutated genes found in COVID-19 invade human bodies in a similar fashion with other highly infectious diseases such as HIV or Ebola, the researchers said. Unlike SARS, the mutated genes of COVID-19 cut the spike protein and activate an enzyme called furin that enables a fusion of virus and human cells. According to the study, this method of entry is 100 to 1,000 times as highly contagious as SARS since the method doesn’t necessarily target ACE2 proteins.
Researchers said drugs targeting furin enzymes such as Indinavir or Boceprevir could be an effective measure to prevent the replication of COVID-19 virus.