Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
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SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA coronavirus which causes the disease COVID-19.It used to be known as 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) by the World Health Organization (WHO) (Chinese: 2019新型冠狀病毒), and informally known as the Wuhan coronavirus (simplified Chinese: 武汉冠状病毒; traditional Chinese: 武漢冠狀病毒) or Wuhan seafood market pneumonia virus.
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Many early cases of this new coronavirus were linked to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China. The virus may have come from infected animals. It is not certain that this place was the source of the pandemic, once believed to be just an epidemic.
The genetic material of this virus showed many similarities to SARS-CoV (79.5%) and bat coronaviruses (96%). This means the virus may have originally come from bats. Scientists did more experiments that showed the virus probably went from bats to an intermediate host, meaning another animal in between bats and humans. The viruses in that other animal changed over time until they could infect humans. Scientists are close to sure that the original animal was a bat but not sure what the intermediate animal was. Some scientists think it could have been a pangolin because there are coronaviruses that live in pangolins even though they are not exactly the same as SARS-CoV-2 or the ones in bats. Pangolins are an endangered species and buying, selling or moving them from place to place is illegal in China and many other countries. But their scales are an ingredient in many traditional Chinese medicines, so they are often sold on the black market.
In February 2020, the WHO announced they had chosen a name for the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2: COVID-19. "Covi" for "coronavirus," "D" for "disease," and "19" for the year 2019. They said they did not want the name to have any person, place, or animal in it, like "Wuhan," or “pangolin,” because then people might blame the disease on that place, person, or animal. They also wanted the name to be easy to say out loud.
In early 2020, some people began to think that the SARS-CoV-2 may have been made on purpose in a laboratory and released in Wuhan like a weapon. When the leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, said that he did not want the United States to help his country against coronavirus, he named the idea that Americans had made the virus on purpose to harm Iranains as one of his reasons: "I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?" said Khamenei.
On March 17, 2020, scientists from Columbia University and other places published a paper in Nature Medicine showing that SARS-CoV-2 was almost surely not made by humans in a laboratory. They did this by comparing the genomes of different viruses to each other. The scientists saw that SARS-CoV-2 did not match any of the viral backbones that already exist for virologists to use.
Another team of scientists led by Dr. Josef Penninger of the University of British Columbia invented a medicine called APN01 and tested it in engineered human tissue, meaning human cells put together in a lab to look and act like they were inside a body. The scientists learned that adding human soluble recombinant angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to these tissues infected with SARS-CoV-2 made it harder for the virus to reproduce.
Some people think hydroxychloroquine, a medicine given to people with malaria, lupus, and arthritis, could work against COVID-19 and some do not. One study from China showed that COVID-19 patients who took hydroxychloroquine got better faster, but the study was not peer reviewed. Other studies in France and China seemed to show hydroxychloroquine helped, but the studies did not include control groups, meaning the doctors did not compare patients who took hydroxychloroquine to patients who did not, so they could not be sure it was the hydroxychloroquine that was helping them or whether it was something else. In March, the United States Food and Drug Administration gave doctors permission to give hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients.
United States President Donald Trump told people to take hydroxychloroquine, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is part of the White House's official coronavirus team said no one could know if hydroxychloroquine worked against SARS-CoV-2. In early April, the New York Times reported that President Trump has "a small personal financial interest" in Sanofi, one of the companies that makes hydroxychloroquine, meaning that if the company sold more hydroxychloroquine, he would have more wealth.
In early April, Fauci said, "The data are really just at best suggestive. There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there's no effect." Dr. Megan L. Ranney of Brown University said that hydroxychloroquine can cause heart attacks and other problems. Other doctors worry that if people take hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, there will not be enough left for people with malaria, lupus, and arthritis. Still, some hospitals have given hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients who are very sick because the doctors think it is worth the risk.
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- University of Pittsburgh (April 2, 2020). "COVID-19 vaccine candidate shows promise in first peer-reviewed research". Eurekalert. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
- University of British Columbia. "Trial drug can significantly block early stages of COVID-19 in engineered human tissues". Eurekalert. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Vanessa Monteil, Hyesoo Kwon, Patricia Prado, Astrid Hagelkrüys, Reiner A. Wimmer, Martin Stahl, Alexandra Leopoldi, Elena Garreta, Carmen Hurtado del Pozo, Felipe Prosper, J.P. Romero, Gerald Wirnsberger, Haibo Zhang, Arthur S. Slutsky, Ryan Conder, Nuria Montserrat, Ali Mirazimi, Josef M. Penninger (April 2, 2020). "Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 infections in engineered human tissues using clinical-grade soluble human ACE2" (PDF). Cell. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.004. Retrieved April 5, 2020. Cite journal requires
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- Michael Crowley; Katie Thomas; Maggie Haberman (April 5, 2020). "Ignoring Expert Opinion, Trump Again Promotes Use of Hydroxychloroquine". New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Peter Baker; Katie Rogers; David Enrich; Maggie Haberman (April 6, 2020). "Trump's Aggressive Advocacy of Malaria Drug for Treating Coronavirus Divides Medical Community". New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
- Richard Luscombe (April 6, 2020). "Fauci: no evidence anti-malaria drug Trump pushes works against virus". The Guardian. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
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