Explainer: How the coronavirus tricks its way into human cells

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A new study sheds light on the fundamental architecture of the coronavirus that allows the pathogen to disguise itself and get into human cells.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has a viral coating that is studded with spike proteins, which are the coronavirus's camouflage and infection tools.

According to a preprint paper published in BioArxiv, scientists have detailed the chemical makeup of the proteins by using electron microscopy and spectrometry.

The researchers identified host-derived sugars — or glycans — embedded in the envelope of the spike protein, as well as the concentration of the sugars in each location on the spike.

Glycans are what viruses use for hiding from the immune system and sneaking into human cells.

Writing in a news release, the researchers say SARS-CoV-2's embedded glycan defenses are thinner than those of many other viruses.

This suggests the coronavirus is a "hit and run" virus that moves rapidly from one person to another.

Paper co-author Max Crispin is cited as saying the study about the coronavirus's sugars is "a very encouraging message for vaccine development," and the research team is already working with partners who have designed candidate vaccines.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Scientists detail the chemical makeup of coronavirus proteins
2. Viral spike protein's embedded sugars are located and identified
3. SARS-CoV-2 has less defense and is a "hit and run" a virus
4. Knowledge of spike protein may lead to a vaccine

VOICEOVER (in English):
"SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has a viral coating that is studded with spike proteins, which are the coronavirus's camouflage and infection tools."

"According to a preprint paper published in BioArxiv, scientists have detailed the chemical makeup of the proteins by using electron microscopy and spectrometry."

"The researchers identified host-derived sugars — or glycans — embedded in the envelope of the spike protein, as well as the concentration of the sugars in each location on the spike."

"Glycans are what viruses use for hiding from the immune system and sneaking into human cells."

"Writing in a news release, the researchers say SARS-CoV-2's embedded glycan defenses are thinner than many other viruses."

"This suggests the coronavirus is a 'hit and run' virus that moves rapidly from one person to another."

"Paper co-author Max Crispin is cited as saying the study about the coronavirus's sugars is 'a very encouraging message for vaccine development,' and the research team is already working with partners who have designed candidate vaccines."

SOURCES: BioArxiv, University of Southampton
https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/coronavirus-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing-tricking-its-way-into-the-human-body/
https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2020/04/coronavirus-spike-glycan.page