The Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) of India released two advisories via PIB on the preventative and treatment measures that can be taken for Coronavirus epidemic. They claimed that Homeopathic medicine can prevent one from the infection, but the government has failed to create an awareness campaign. There are many people seen wearing masks in India especially in trains and planes. But no one knows what this virus is all about.
Coronavirus affects the respiratory tract in the mammals; it causes all types of the common cold. It causes cold with major symptoms e.g. throat swollen adenoids, in humans primarily in the winter. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia and they can also cause bronchitis either direct viral bronchitis or secondary bacterial bronchitis. The Coronavirus is fairly new that has taken the world by shock. It’s been two months since the outbreak started and it has shown that it isn’t as deadly as the SARS virus. Also, it takes about two weeks before the person infected shows any symptoms. It’s not noticed right away.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic in origin. Both SARS and MERS are classified as zoonotic viral diseases, meaning the first patients who were infected acquired these viruses directly from animals. This was possible because while in the animal host, the virus had acquired a series of genetic mutations that allowed it to infect and multiply inside humans. Snakes have been suggested as a host or intermediate host. In the case of this 2019 Wuhan variant (2019-nCoV) Coronavirus outbreak, reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalised were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market which also sold processed meats and live consumable animals including poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles. China not only has a culture of eating fresh meat and has as many markets and wild animals fairs. This gives most likely a virus jumping to humans or other animals which can be intermediates. However, since no one has ever reported finding a Coronavirus infecting aquatic animals, it is plausible that the disease may have originated from other animals sold in that market. The study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV reveals that the new virus is most closely related to two bat SARS-like Coronavirus samples from China initially suggesting that like SARS and MERS, the bat might also be the origin of 2019-nCoV. The authors further found that the viral RNA coding sequence of 2019-nCoV spike protein which forms the “crown” of the virus particle that recognises the receptor on a host cell indicates that the bat virus might have mutated before infecting people. But when the researchers performed a more detailed bioinformatics analysis of the sequence of 2019-nCoV, it suggests that this Coronavirus might come from snakes.
The Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market where the Coronavirus outbreak is believed to have started is now closed, making it difficult for greater detailed sampling and study. Also, these reptile to bat and then human transfers are NOT definite or independently verified. Searching for the 2019-nCoV sequence in snakes would be the first thing to do. However, since the outbreak, the seafood market has been disinfected and shut down which makes it challenging to trace the new virus’ source animal. Coronaviruses are not particularly dangerous. There are four strains circulating among people, all of which cause mild upper respiratory infections (aka common cold). However three strains (SARS, MERS, and nCov) cause deadly pneumonia. These viruses only circulate in animals and cause occasional outbreaks among people. Generally speaking, being too lethal is not good for viruses as infected hosts may be too sick to spread the disease. For example, SARS is infectious only when patients are very sick, which makes it less likely to spread (actually the majority of transmission occurred between patients and doctors). As a result, viruses causing mild, less lethal diseases are favored by the selective pressure.
Such rule does not apply to zoonotic viruses because they don’t circulate among humans, but move instead in animals. When they infect a new species, they may be either too weak (i.e., unable to spread at all) or too aggressive (i.e., unable to spread efficiently). However, if the viral spread continues, viruses causing milder diseases are more favoured until it reaches equilibrium. For example, the Spanish flu was very lethal when initially introduced to human, but eventually became milder seasonal flu strains, contrary to people’s belief, the Spanish flu was never gone, as some genetic segments are still circulating. However, we should remain cautious as something unexpected may happen during the adaptation. Because human adapted viruses will be very different from the initial one, anything could happen during such a long evolution path. For example, a mutation that enables the virus to replicate faster or evade the white blood cells better may increase both the infectivity and lethality which is advantageous in the short term. This could probably explain why the death toll of the Spanish flu spiked at the second wave. So even the general trend is becoming better, something nasty can still happen. So what we need is awareness and guidelines on precautions to be taken.
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