Coronavirus far more likely than Sars to bond to human cells due to HIV-like mutation, scientists say
Research by team from Nankai University shows new virus has mutated gene similar to those found in HIV and Ebola
The new coronavirus has an HIV-like mutation that means its ability to bind with human cells could be up to 1,000 times as strong as the SARS virus, according to new research by scientists in China and Europe.
Highly contagious viruses, including HIV and Ebola, target an enzyme called furin, which works as a protein activator in the human body. Many proteins are inactive or dormant when they are produced and have to be “cut” at specific points to activate their various functions.
When looking at the genome sequence of the new coronavirus, Professor Ruan Jishou and his team at Nankai University in Tianjin found a section of mutated genes that did not exist in Sars, but were similar to those found in HIV and Ebola.
“This virus may use the packing mechanisms of other viruses such as HIV.”
According to the study, the mutation can generate a structure known as a cleavage site in the new coronavirus’ spike protein.