One year on : Do we understand Covid-19 any better ?
A year ago, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was the first to share information about a SARS-type lung infection with colleagues in Wuhan, China. Researchers have learned a lot since then. Here are the most important points.
Li Wenliang, who gave an early warning on the coronavirus Heworked at the Wuhan Central Hospital, was the first to share information about suspected SARS-type lung infections in the city in Central China on December 30, 2019.
Li Wenliang died from COVID-19 on February 2. At the beginning of the second week of January 2020, Chinese authorities made the first public announcement that a new type of virus was rampant in the city of Wuhan. Now, at the end of December 2020, there have been more than 1.5 million infections in Germany and more than 80 million worldwide.
Here’s an overview of what has been discovered about the virus to date, and how far medicine has progressed in the fight against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus : When the existence of the virus was announced, the first infection of a human by a vertebrate animal had apparently already occurred several weeks earlier.
Initially, Chinese authorities seemed to have tried to suppress any evidence. To this day, it’s not exactly clear when and where the virus jumped from animal to human hosts.
Chinese virologists deciphered the genetic information of the virus in record time. On January 21, they published the genome structure, and three days later they released a detailed description of the virus. This enabled physicians and microbiologists worldwide to begin developing drugs and vaccines.
A typical feature of the virus is the spike proteins (ACE-2) located on its surface. These are crucial for binding to the host cell. That is why a large part of drug and vaccine development has been focused on binding or blocking this protein, or rendering it ineffective in some other way.
In the meantime, a study carried out by virologists in the city of Heinsberg, one of the first hotbeds of the disease in Germany, has established that the virus is particularly prevalent in the throat and lungs. The greatest danger of infection – besides by coming into direct contact with an infected person or touching a contaminated surface, known as smear infections – is through aerosol transmission. The virus can spread particularly well through air-conditioning systems, such as those used widely in the meat industry.
Closed rooms with many people in them are very dangerous. That’s why lockdown measures, the closure of entertainment establishments and the cancellation of trade fairs and major events were very effective in containing the disease.
The largest chains of infection could be traced back to so-called superspreader events.
The use of mouth-and-nose protection, i.e., face masks,has now become established in almost all countries of the world. However, many medical professionals initially questioned whether most people were capable of using masks in everyday life in such a way as to help prevent potential virus transmission.
What is most important is for people to wash their hands, keep their distance from others and air rooms thoroughly.
Even if some pets, such as cats, ferrets and golden hamsters, can become infected by humans, they have not been found to play a significant role in infection chains. However, infections in mink farms in numerous countries have caused great concerns among veterinary doctors. Authorities have subsequently ordered the culling of millions of animals.
Initially, it was thought that the new virus was no more dangerous than the seasonal flu. Now, however, physicians know better: The disease poses a threat similar to that of the devastating Spanish flu of 1918. Although many people can get a SARS-CoV-2 infection without symptoms, others become very ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.93-year-old
Some groups of people are more often affected than others: People with previous illnesses, elderly people, people with blood type A and men are more at risk.Pathologists who have examined COVID-19 victims have been able to confirm that high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, liver cirrhosis, asthma and cardiovascular diseases are among the most dangerous preexisting conditions. In principle, however, a severe case of the disease can affect anybody, including young people.
Mild forms of COVID-19 can present like a cold. Typical symptoms are a sore throat, breathing problems and a loss of sense of smell and taste.In severe cases, however, a life-threatening multi-organ disease can occur.This often leads to sepsis – a frequently fatal overreaction of the immune system that attacks the infected person’s own tissue and organs.
The severity of the disease depends, to a large extent, on how strongly a person’s immune system reacts to the pathogen.
It has not been proven that the face masks seen above can effectively protect you against viral infections. That said, these masks are probably able to catch some germs before they reach your mouth or nose. More importantly, they prevent people from touching their mouth or nose (which most people do instinctually). If you are already sick, such masks may keep you from infecting others.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many patients with severe courses of the disease received artificial respiration (intubation) at an early stage and died all the same.
Now, however, physicians working in intensive care units have moved away from standard ventilation, because lung specialists have stressed that artificial respiration under positive pressure can do more damage than good to the lungs.As long as patients are able to breathe on their own, they now receive oxygen without being connected to a respirator. Intubation is used as an option only in an extreme emergency.
In many cases, when the kidneys are severely damaged by COVID-19, dialysis is also necessary. Intensive care units are now also taking other damaged organs into account.
The healing process can be accelerated in specialized clinics by the administration of antibodies from the blood of cured COVID-19 patients. These antibodies take up the fight against the virus in the body of the patient who receives the donated blood.