COronaVIrus Diseases-2019 (COVID-19) – a combination of respiratory/ pulmonary disorders or problems is caused by the novel coronavirus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-2). 


The coronavirus is not a newbie however not trivial too, it was discovered in 1960. Unlike reported in animals first, though they are not proven asymptomatic carriers of the disease, nonetheless the symptoms are sparingly observed in animals too.

In the present time, COVID-19 spreading is the biggest threat to the world and humanity due to its rapid transmission. It is spread through aerosol, body contacts and touching the nose, eyes and surfaces of skin after in contact with the infected carriers or diseased subjects.

 In short, it transmits through anything and everything. 

Every possible scientific mind (Scientists/Researchers/Doctors) are working tirelessly to validate and modulate the precautionary measures to cease the current crisis. 

Nevertheless, time is the crucial fundamental for the construction of vaccination to prevent the present outbreak. Time being, it is very utmost required for us to prevent the transmissions. 

Since last day nearly 2,00,000 people and more across the world have been infected with it and are getting infected with the tick of clock now. 

In the present article, we would highlight some (postulated hypothetical) scientific strategies to prevent the outbreak of the COVID-19. Along with it, we will also discuss some of the frugal tips (proven and practised) to stop the coronavirus transmission. 

Introduction to Coronavirus: 

The coronavirus strains are abbreviated as CoV, more than six reported strains are responsible for various respiratory infections in animals, including humans. 

SARS-CoV is the major concerned threat for now, it’s transmitting like lightning across the globe and infecting people across the globe, unlike any age bar.

Several corroborations denoted regarding the susceptibility of some blood groups likely to receive the infections- abiding to all other speculations what is important to understand that the age groups infant to childhood and mid-aged to old age are more likely to get severe infections than others. With a basic understanding of the immunity factor.  

Single-stranded RNA is the genetic material of SARS-CoV, although it is not a retrovirus. Its genome size is approximately ~30kb.  

Structurally it has a spike protein on its surface, membrane protein,  envelope protein and nucleoproteins. 

Different proteins work differently for performing various functions. For instance, the spike protein helps in binding with the cell surface receptor.  Once it enters into the host cell, various proteins are formed from viral mRNA. 

The entire mechanism of infection is complicated. We have explained it in the previous article. We also have discussed its structure and genetic composition in detail. 

Read the article here: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)- Structure, Genome and Testing

Mentioned below are some of the practised strategies to prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission. 

  • Frequent hand washing 
  • Avoid face touching 
  • Use antibacterial soaps and alcohol-based sanitizers 
  • Social distancing 
  • Don’t share personal items 
  • Disinfect clothes 
  • Wear Masks
  • Stop Panicking

The elements of the image taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Besides, many more strategies and tips work to prevent COVID-19 infections. Although, we are not talking about it right now. We are interested in some scientific strategies to prevent transmission. 

Is there any? Sad to say, not yet. 

But as a scientist, it’s our foremost obligation to come up with some rational hypothetical fundamental that might be very frugal yet simple to follow on the ground level to break the linchpin of the transmission. 

Last night on a  conference video call to our team- I (Dr Tushar C), Debayan B, Binal T, Tushar K, Ravi P and Dhruvil S, discussed some possible ways to prevent COVID-19. Some of the options actually made sense while others are just assumptions. 

“A thousand failures closes the door to a thousand wrong ways.” Don’t panic or think much, these are some of the possible ways, scientifically. 

So let’s discuss it. 

Blocking the viral receptors: 

Postulated (Hypothesis) by Debayan B:

Any foreign particles- antigens bind to the receptors present on the cell surface. After that, it is destroyed by the cell’s natural defence mechanism. Unlikely, the coronavirus functions. 

But their RNA constructs new viral particles once it enters and is destroyed in the cell through phagocytosis. It uses our own central dogma machinery to rejuvenate a new viral particle. 

And that’s how it works. 

Until and unless it doesn’t find the receptor, it can’t enter into a cell. Unlike HCV the COVID-19 rejuvenates its entire body inside our cells. 

So thinking that phagocytosis that might kill the virus allows the COVID-19 to form endosomes and with endocytosis, it’s releasing its ssRNA (+) which rather is only avoided or unnoticed. See the image below, 

The image shows a hypothetical representation of blocking the cell surface receptors.

So by any means, if we block the SARS-CoV receptor present on a cell surface, we can stop it. Any synthetic molecules which fit with the 19-CoV receptor lock the door to enter the virus.  

However, receptors- a type of protein molecule are also formed to perform various functions for a cell. So blocking a cell surface receptor can’t be so beneficial for us. It can cause mild to severe adverse effects. 

In addition to this, as per the recent research coronavirus enters into a host cell through, not only binds to cell surface receptors but also by interacting with the peptidase present on a cell. 

More technically we can alter the amino acid sequences by using pharmaceutical blockers or prosthetic which can help our body but can avoid the adhesion of viral receptors 

Aminopeptidase and dipeptidyl-peptidase are two common types of enzymes that also function as a receptor for SARS-CoV-2. APN, mCEACAM, DPP4 and N-acetyl-9-O-acetylneuramic acid are some of the receptors for coronavirus. 

So practically, we can’t block all the receptors only for blocking the entry of the virus.  Still, we can not deny, if the symptoms or effects of receptor blocking aren’t so serious we can try it. (if possible!)

You know mild to moderate fever also happens when vaccines are given.

Drug Antagonist:

In support of the above hypothesis. Antagonist drugs can function to block cell surface receptors.  “Antagonist drugs specific to the receptor of coronavirus compete with it and can block the receptor site.”, quoted Dhruvil S (Pharmacist). 

However, blocking the cell surface receptor can adversely affect the normal function of a cell, as we said. He warned about it as well. 

Extensive clinical trials must be required to do so and for checking the adverse effect of an antagonist. 

 Knocking out a gene for spike protein: 

The well-known genetic engineering tool “gene knockout” can also help to stop the viral spreading. 

We can knock out the gene for a spike protein.  The viral S protein or spike protein encoded by the ‘S gene’ located in the genome of CoV. The S1 domain constructs the head of the spike while the S2 domain forms the stem of it. The spike protein is the first viral component that comes in contact with the host cell. It binds to the surface receptor, as we said above and replicated in the host cell cytoplasm. 

If we mutate or remove the gene sequence for the spike protein either for the S1 domain of the S2 domain, the virus may lose its affinity. Consequently, it remains outside the host cell and can’t penetrate it.

Nonetheless, doing gene knockout or site-specific mutagenesis is not as easy as we think.

Competitive antagonism: 

Yet another fictitious hypothesis to overcome the present breakdown is using another helpful coronavirus. 

No coronavirus strains are safer for us, at least for now. But we can construct one. If we somehow manage to remove or mutate a replicase gene, the viral particle can not synthesise their RNA into the host cell. 

For that using the genetic engineering technique, a replicase gene is removed. Now we have the new strain of coronavirus without the ‘rep gene’. If we increase its binding capacity with the receptor, it competes with its own strain with the (rep gene). 

The wild type CoV strain couldn’t bind to the cell but genetically constructed CoV -Rep can, once it enters into the cell cytoplasm. 

It starts it’s transcription machinery but due to the lack of replicase, it can not synthesise their RNA. 

Ultimately a new viral particle can’t be formed. Again here also, the chance of adverse effect should be measured first. Because we don’t know how the CoV -Rep gene strain behaves. It’s just a hypothesis!

Artificial cell analogues or liposome: 

In gene therapy experiments, we are using liposomes to transfer a gene of interest into the cell. If we construct artificial cell coats with SARS-CoV specific receptor and peptide molecules, we can trap them. 

In this hypothesis, we have to make a stronger phospholipid capsid or liposome that a virus can’t escape from.  

Once the virus finds it, it binds to the receptor, enters into the capsid but it neither can replicate nor escape from it. And if it can’t find a suitable host for a longer time, it itself is destroyed. 

But again, here also this is just an assumption. We do not have information about the possible disadvantages of it. 

The liposome-mediated strategies to prevent COVID-19.

Now let us discuss one of the traditional ways to battle against COVID-19, constructing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccines for COVID-19: 

“The vaccines are one of the effective and targeted ways to prevent infection spreading,” said WHO. 

Vaccines are the traditional way to prevent infection against any pathogens. And it’s effective as well. But it takes a long time to make vaccines effective.  

First, let’s discuss what a vaccine is actually!

The vaccine is a combination of dead or inactive viral particles aimed to stimulate an immune response against pathogenic infection. 

Dead pathogenic or viral particles are here used as antigen. Our body releases antibodies against it and/or memorizes what the pathogen is. 

In future, when a cell encounters the pathogen, the memory cells help to defeat it. 

But the question here is, why no vaccines against coronavirus are still available? 

The lightning speed of infection and the tedious process of vaccine approval are the two reasons for that. 

Unlike other previous pathogens, the COVID-19 spreads faster. Within a few months, it proliferated in every corner of the world. 

Scientists don’t have enough time to work on it. And due to this less published work is available. 

Vaccine making is a lengthy process. It takes time to research it. Then the vaccine must have to pass pre-clinical and three-stage clinical trials.

Until and unless it isn’t approved by FDA like governing authorities, it can not be used. On average, around 18 to 24 months are required to use a vaccine. 

However, the vaccine against COVID-19 is nearly ready to use. 

These are some of the scientific ways we can prevent spreading of coronavirus pandemic. However, following some routine habits and hygiene practices we vanish CoV from the world. 

Related read: What is genetic engineering?

Develop these habits:

Hand washing: 

WHO suggests, in the present condition, wash your hands frequently and carefully. Use a good antibacterial soap. Wash for at least 20 seconds up to your wrist. Do this practice twice in an hour. 

Do not touch your face: 

It isn’t an airborne virus. Until you can’t help it to reach your respiratory system, it can’t reach there by itself. The virus can live maximum up to 72 hours without a host. 

So stop touching your facial areas like mouth, nose, eye or chick. If possible, before touching your face wash your hands with sanitizer. 

Avoid physical contact: 

The coronavirus infection can be easily transmitted from person to person physical contact. Avoid handshake and hugging people at least for now. 

Instead, say “namaste” to honour someone. 

Social distancing: 

Social distancing must be followed to prevent coronavirus from spreading. As we said it passes from either physical touch or by aerosols. Stay away from people. Maintains at least 6 to 7 feet distance with other people. 

Don’t do unnecessary chit chat with others. Go out of your house if it is necessary. 

Do not gather in groups. Stay at your home. If anyone of your family members has a cough or fever, kindly separate them. 

Maintain hygiene: 

Disinfect door handles, mobile phones, laptops and other daily use utilities with alcohol. Maintain proper hygiene. Clean your hand and face frequently. 

Besides these, avoid eating in public places, wash your groceries, jewellery (if you are wearing it daily) and other daily stuff. 

If you feel sick, self-quarantine yourself at your home. Take responsibility in the present scenario and protect your family. 

Read here, CDC’s Guidelines to prevent COVID-19 infection: How To Protect Yourself.

Conclusion

With a signing note, we wish all of us to stay safe, healthy and sanitized. We are at a minute to midnight where we need to understand that we are now like a prokaryotic unicellular organism in Bartlett’s beaker doubling in every minute and have reached half.

 And we would be responsible for our own extinction if we are reluctant now. No longer the time might arrive that our money isn’t enough to get us food because of the 30KB genome of a mere virus.

 Looking down the window questions my existence: no world war III, No terrorist massacre, No religious crusade, No political Riots. 

Yet just a 30 KB virus can be a huge threat to the life of Humanity. What can help us now is to understand self, maintain social distance, be self-disciplined and urge for survival. 

Yet we still are on Minute to midnight- if we don’t follow the set government rules.

These are our thoughts on preventive strategies against COVID-19. feel free to comment below and let us known what your idea regarding it.