Latest scientific news about COVID-19

Find quick access to the research about CORONAVIRUS:

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 COVID-19 Animation: What Happens If You Get Coronavirus?


Complete genom of 2019-nCoV WHU01 and 3D visualization of the crystal structure of COVID-19:



 Synchrotrons on the coronavirus frontline

(Synchrotron light sources all over the world have been granting priority and rapid access - link)


Tessa Charles describes the impressive progress being made by synchrotron X-ray facilities to solve the structure of SARS-CoV-2 — a first step towards the development of drugs and vaccines.

At a time when many countries are locking down borders, limiting public gatherings, and encouraging isolation, the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire, UK, has been ramping up its intensity, albeit in an organised and controlled manner. The reason: these scientists are working tirelessly on drug-discovery efforts to quell COVID-19.


Knowing the atomic structure of the virus is like knowing how the enemy thinks. A 3D visualisation of the building blocks of the structure at an atomic level would allow scientists to understand how the virus functions. Enzymes, the molecular machines that allow the virus to replicate, are key to this process. Scientists at Diamond are exploring the binding site of the main SARS-CoV-2 protease. A drug that binds to this enzyme’s active site would throw a chemical spanner in the works, blocking the virus’ ability to replicate and limiting the spread of the disease.

By way of reminder: Coronavirus is the family of viruses responsible for the common cold, MERS, SARS, etc. Novel coronavirus, aka SARS-CoV-2, is the newly discovered type of coronavirus, and COVID-19 is the disease which it causes.




The most powerful supercomputers are in work to combat coronavirus

Researchers are using the world’s most powerful supercomputer in the fight against the new coronavirus strain.Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have used Summit, the world’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer, to identify 77 small-molecule drug compounds that might warrant further study in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which is responsible for the COVID-19 disease outbreak. The early research at ORNL identified drug compounds that may effectively fight the virus. Using Summit, researchers screened more than 8,000 drug compounds to find those most likely to bind to the main “spike” protein of the virus. If a drug binds to the spike protein, it blocks the virus from infecting human cells. Summit reduced the time it took to screen for useful drugs from months to just days. Initial analysis identified at least 77 drug compounds worth further study. Now scientists can run more targeted experiments as they seek to cure and control the virus. 



COMPUTATIONAL MODELLING: Inhibitors for Novel Coronavirus Protease Identified by Virtual Screening of 687 Million Compounds

(Fischer, A.; Sellner, M.; Neranjan, S.; Lill, M. A.; Smieško, M.: Inhibitors for Novel Coronavirus Protease Identified by Virtual Screening of 687 Million Compounds. ChemRxiv. - link)


.... there remains an urgent need for the development of specific antiviral therapeutics to conquer SARS-CoV-2. In order to find novel inhibitors, we computationally screened a compound library of over 687 million compounds for binding at the recently solved crystal structure of the main protease of SARS-CoV-2. A screening of such a vast chemical space for SARS-CoV-2 protease inhibitors has not been reported before. After shape screening, two docking protocols were applied followed by the determination of pharmacokinetically relevant molecular descriptors to narrow down the initial hits. Next, molecular dynamics simulations were conducted to validate the stability of docked binding modes and comprehensively quantify ligand binding energies. After evaluation of off-target binding, we report a list of 11 drug-like compounds with improved binding free energy to the target protease in contrast to the cocrystallized peptidomimetic lead compound that suffers from poor pharmacokinetic properties. Furthermore, we identified one potent binder with comparable properties from the natural compound library.




Facemasks helps to prevent spreading the virus

(Leung et al., Nature Medicine;  Science News and PNA - link)
 scienceThe National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has given a boost to an unsettling idea: that the novel coronavirus can spread through the air—not just through the large droplets emitted in a cough or sneeze. Though current studies aren’t conclusive, “the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” Harvey Fineberg, who heads a standing committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, wrote in a 1 April letter to Kelvin Droegemeier, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
 The debate began when researchers reported earlier this year in The New England Journal of Medicine that SARS-CoV-2 can float in aerosol droplets—less than 5 microns across—for up to 3 hours, and remain infectious. In their review, Fineberg and his NAS colleagues pointed to other studies, including a recent one by Joshua Santarpia and colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that found widespread evidence of viral RNA in isolation rooms of patients being treated for COVID-19. Viral RNA turned up on hard to reach surfaces, as well as in air samplers more than 2 meters from the patients. The presence of the RNA indicates virus can spread via aerosols, Santarpia and his colleagues concluded, although they did not find infectious viral particles.

Coronavirus can infect cats, dog at less extent. Whether these (and other domestic animals) can also spread the virus is not clear yet

(Shi et al. :Susceptibility of ferrets, cats, dogs, and different domestic animals to SARS-coronavirus-2 - link)


 Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes the infectious disease COVID-19, which was first reported in Wuhan, China in December, 2019. Despite the tremendous efforts to control the disease, COVID-19 has now spread to over 100 countries and caused a global pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have originated in bats; however, the intermediate animal sources of the virus are completely unknown. Here, we investigated the susceptibility of ferrets and animals in close contact with humans to SARS-CoV-2. We found that SARS-CoV-2 replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks, but efficiently in ferrets and cats. We found that the virus transmits in cats via respiratory droplets. Our study provides important insights into the animal reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2 and animal management for COVID-19 control.

Although SARS-CoV-2 shares 96.2% identity at the nucleotide level with the coronavirus RaTG13, which was detected in horseshoe bats in Yunnan province in 2013, it has not previously been detected in humans or other animals. The emerging situation raises many urgent questions. Could the widely disseminated viruses transmit to other animal species, which then become reservoirs of infection?



Whether coronavirus is airborne or not is not clear

(Natureresearch journal: Is the coronavirus airborne? Experts can’t agree - link)


Since early reports revealed that a new coronavirus was spreading rapidly between people, researchers have been trying to pin down whether it can travel through the air. Health officials say the virus is transported only through droplets that are coughed or sneezed out — either directly, or on objects. But some scientists say there is preliminary evidence that airborne transmission — in which the disease spreads in the much smaller particles from exhaled air, known as aerosols — is occurring, and that precautions, such as increasing ventilation indoors, should be recommended to reduce the risk of infection.


When public health officials say there isn't sufficient evidence to say that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, they specifically mean transported in virus-laden aerosols smaller than 5 micrometres in diameter. Compared with droplets, which are heftier and thought to travel only short distances after someone coughs or sneezes before falling to the floor or onto other surfaces, aerosols can linger in the air for longer and travel further.




Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks

(Leung, N.H.L., Chu, D.K.W., Shiu, E.Y.C. et al. Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks. Nat Med (2020). - link)

naturemedicinWe identified seasonal human coronaviruses, influenza viruses and rhinoviruses in exhaled breath and coughs of children and adults with acute respiratory illness. Surgical face masks significantly reduced detection of influenza virus RNA in respiratory droplets and coronavirus RNA in aerosols, with a trend toward reduced detection of coronavirus RNA in respiratory droplets. Our results indicate that surgical face masks could prevent transmission of human coronaviruses and influenza viruses from symptomatic individuals.


We screened 3,363 individuals in two study phases, ultimately enrolling 246 individuals who provided exhaled breath samples. Among these 246 participants, 122 (50%) participants were randomized to not wearing a face mask during the first exhaled breath collection and 124 (50%) participants were randomized to wearing a face mask. Overall, 49 (20%) voluntarily provided a second exhaled breath collection of the alternate type. Infections by at least one respiratory virus were confirmed by reverse transcription PCR (RT–PCR) in 123 of 246 (50%) participants.


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