Photo by Elizabeth R. Fischer, Rocky Mountain Labs/NIH
A new strain of coronavirus has a lot in common with SARS, but attaches to a different protein on the surface of epithelial (probably throat and lung) cells. Knowing which protein the virus attaches to before it inserts RNA into host cells will be helpful to medical researchers who want to develop a vaccine or drug treatment.
There haven’t been a lot of confirmed infections since this coronavirus was first identified in a patient last year, but the mortality rate has been high — 9 deaths in 15 cases. That’s actually worse than SARS, which only caused a 50%+ death rate in older people, with maybe 1 in 16 younger people dying from the infection. The actual death rate from this new coronavirus might be much lower than 50% — truth is, 15 cases is a small sample size, and many of the cases occurred in countries where education and medical resources are not always easily accessible (Saudi, Jordan).
The protein this new coronavirus attaches to is called DPP4, by the way. DPP4, or dipeptidyl peptidase 4, is an enzyme that modifies other proteins, and has been shown to play an important role in the protection of our cells from invading viruses and bacteria.
As a great anchorman once said, “Oh, Sweet Irony!”