Scientists want to answer where SARS-CoV-2 exactly originated from. Knowing this gives an idea of how it came to evolve and developed ways to make people sick.
COVID-19 can bypass immune systems
Studies investigating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that triggered the COVID-19 epidemic, discovered that the virus is tailored specifically to infect human cells with computer modeling. Looking at the cells of the pangolin or bats, the scientists realized that these models did not give the answers needed, reported SciTech Daily.
According to Scimex, a study conducted by Australian scientists utilized advanced computer modeling to analyze the coronavirus from the pandemic's start. This is to see how well it takes over humans and 12 domestic or exotic animals.
Its purpose is to see which animal is the origin of the virus or if it's really even zoonotic in origin. One idea is that bats were the culprit.
ACE2 is the key?
A group made up of researchers from Flinders University and La Trobe University, assembled the genetic data from 12 specific animals. Next will be the computer simulations of how the ACE2 protein receptors of each animal will react to the spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2. This will determine each one's susceptibility. The study showed that COVID-19 has adapted to infect human cells.
In the simulations run to predict each ACE2 receptor if the spikes can breach the cell wall, it was human cells that showed the least resistance to the marauding virus. Other animals didn't have easy paths. In fact, even bats and pangolins were absolved in the test.
One conclusion is that none of the 12 animal samples were like the human DNA, which had the least resistance to the protein spikes of coronavirus.
Professor David Winkler, from La Trobe University, cited by Study Finds, confirmed that humans cells bonded with the spikes best. He added it would be a surprise if humans did get the disease from an animal.
Another scientist, Flinders affiliated Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, added that ACE2 proteins that are of human origin were more likely to get infected than a bat. It negates the idea bats transmitted the SARS-CoV-2. If true, then the natural source has not been found yet.
Other than the human ACE2 receptor based on the AI simulation, it is the pangolins that were a bit affected more by the virus. This rare ant-eater is used as medicine or food in southeast Asia. Compared to other species like bats, bats, monkeys, or snakes, it is a good candidate.
Pangolins are the source?
Petrovsky said that initially the pangolin was thought to be the origin of the virus. It was corrected later on because it was less than 90% similar genetic-wise that discounted it as its origin.
Results from the analysis show that the pangolin ACE2 is almost similar to the coronavirus spike, based on results from the simulations. Having the same spike protein explains how close it is to pangolins' own cell proteins. But, the process is not easy to analyze for now. Further studies are needed to show if COVID-19 has adapted to infect human cells better than pangolins, the closest in possible animal origin.