Alarmed by an alarming increase in a virus infecting teenagers and young adults throughout Europe, scientists have shown an unusual mechanism for how the virus spreads — its spores break through the DNA of healthy cells, and when they do, they ignite a deadly auto-immune response.
The causal agent of the outbreak, the outbreak, is thought to be a bacterial virus called coronavirus, but in part because the causative organism has an exotic name, and in part because researchers are unaware of what an actual strain of the virus looks like, no one knows exactly how widespread the infection is. And far from the lab, however, it’s causing serious and sometimes fatal symptoms.
Patients who have been infected typically experience vomiting, diarrhea, headache, body aches, rashes and fever. Those with more severe symptoms may present with sudden cardiac arrest and collapse of the heart muscle.
But now that scientists have learned of the way the virus affects healthy cells, doctors are notifying health care providers that infected patients might be at greater risk for an autoimmune attack — a severe condition in which the body mounts a powerful immune response against the virus — because patients already show signs of viral genetic rearrangement and immunologic deficiencies, called genetic plasmids.
These genetic plasmids are precursors to viral particles that enter cells and launch the viral pandemic into a vicious cycle of destruction, creating dozens to hundreds of viral particles and accompanying plasmids that infect cells.
But the researchers discovered that when a virus transforms or breaks off from a healthy cell, the purified particles are able to infect a larger area of the cell. This allows the virus to escape the immune system’s defense and immediately jump into a healthy cell.
With viral sequences as small as 18 amino acids, they occur “serendipitously” inside a genome, said Michel C. Oben, a professor of molecular microbiology at Lausanne University Hospital, and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Virology.
In their study, scientists sequenced the genome of the corona virus, and generated copies of genomes that they found in four patients. Each of the genomes contained specific “pseudogenic” genetic arrangements, known as transposons, that the study authors have defined as “panda legs.” In a statement, they said the virus was producing lots of pandemic transposons.
In two patients, the two vaccinia viruses, which are produced in sheep and transmitted to humans through the respiratory tract, destroyed a cell and then triggered an anti-viral response that led to a severe an inflammatory reaction.
Other Vamoose journals have expressed alarm about the virus’s infectious potential, noting cases of the virus in infants, among young children and in adults.
The researchers found that certain thrombogenic components of the virus could contribute to the development of a serious viral illness. In addition to the Ebola and a similar virus found in wild bats, the scientists found a few other viruses, and all looked exactly the same as the corona virus.