New Delhi: As death toll from the SARS-CoV-2 continue to rise across the world, researchers’ race to find a treatment of cure continues too.
Here are some of the latest scientific developments around the novel coronavirus.
Virus-fighting RNA diminishes with age, comorbidities
A group of tiny RNA — that is supposed to attack the SARS-CoV-2 when it infects human bodies — diminishes with age and in people with chronic health problems, which may explain why older individuals and those with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable to Covid-19.
MicroRNAs play a big role in controlling gene expression, and are a frontline defence when viruses invade.
According to a study published in Aging and Disease, the microRNA numbers dwindle with age and under chronic medical conditions, which reduces a person’s ability to respond to viruses.
The team from Augusta University had looked at the RNA sequence of two coronaviruses — SARS, which surfaced in 2002, and SARS-CoV-2. They also looked at the sequence of microRNAs that appeared to be attacking these viruses, then used computer simulation to figure out the results.
They found 873 microRNAs that target the SARS-CoV-2 genome. These microRNAs were associated with more than 72 biological processes — from the production of molecules to immune response.
Many of these are known to become dysregulated and/or diminish in number with age and with underlying medical conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a likely factor in the increased disease presentation and death rates seen in these individuals, the researchers said.
Scientists create a detailed model of SARS-CoV-2
Visual Science, a biomedical visualisation studio, has created what they claimed to be the most detailed and scientifically accurate 3D model of the full SARS-CoV-2 virus in atomic resolution.
The model is based on the latest scientific research into the structure of coronaviruses and communication with virologists currently working with the virus, the team said.
The model reflects scientists’ current understanding of the virus’ architecture. It includes surface spike protein that binds to receptors on the surface of a human cell, the fatty envelope with an integrated layer of matrix proteins, and a genome assembly.
The team used published scientific information about the virus and available structures of proteins as a starting point. They reconstructed the complete model of the viral proteins and their interactions using computational biology software.
New nanotech turns tap water into disinfectants
Researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Israel have developed new methodologies to produce powerful, environmentally-friendly disinfectants that can be added to tap water to eliminate bacteria and kill viruses, including microbes from the coronavirus family.
The technology works through an array of nanometer-sized electrodes with unique surface properties. The meeting between water and electrodes create a cleaning material in a unique aquatic environment.
The combination of these compounds give rise to an effective antibacterial capability for microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and spores), while at the same time cannot damage larger organisms like skin cells.
The disinfectants also do not contaminate groundwater.
The technology can be used to prepare a variety of disinfectant solutions. The ability to produce electrodes in a variety of shapes and textures makes this technology suitable to almost any application — from disinfection and removal of pesticides from vegetables and fruits, to manufacturing antibacterial cloths for masks and gloves.
Covid-19 pandemic may lead to rise in psychosis
Scientists in Australia, who have reviewed contemporary epidemic and pandemic research, found an increase in the prevalence of psychosis due to Covid-19.
The review, published in Schizophrenia Research, suggests that increase in prevalence of psychosis as a result of Covid-19 is likely be associated with viral exposure, pre-existing vulnerability and psychosocial stress.
The review also said people with psychosis may present a major challenge and potential infection control risk to clinical teams working with them.
The team had looked at published research on viruses such as MERS, SARS, swine and other influenza that have occurred in the past 20 years, to examine if there was any connection to how these viruses might impact people with psychosis.
The first episodes of psychosis are commonly triggered by substantial psychosocial stress, the researchers have said. In the context of Covid-19, this could include stress related to isolation and having to stay in challenging family situations.