Scientists have worked out how a deadly new virus that was unknown in humans until last year is able to infect human cells and cause severe, potentially fatal damage to the lungs.

In one of the first detailed studies of the virus—which emerged in the Middle East and has so far infected 15 people worldwide, killing nine of them—Dutch researchers identified a cell surface protein it uses to enter and infect human cells.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, came as the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the 15th case of the virus, known as novel coronavirus or NCoV, in a male patient in Saudi Arabia who died on March 2.

Other cases have been in Jordan and Qatar, and in patients in Germany and Britain linked to travel in the Middle East.

NCoV is from the same family of viruses as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003.

The WHO first issued an international alert about it in September after it was identified in a Qatari man in Britain who had recently been in Saudi Arabia.

A study published last month found that NCoV was well adapted to infecting human cells and may be treatable with medicines similar to the ones used for SARS, which killed a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected.

In this latest study, led by Bart Haagmans at the Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, researchers set out to find how the virus got into cells—which receptors it used—and then to find out where in the body those receptors were common.

Potential Vaccines

“Once you can identify the receptor and you know the distribution of the receptor in the body, then you can get more information on the pathogenesis (the way it infects people) of the virus and the possibility for transmission,” Haagmans said in a telephone interview.

Researchers identified the key receptor for the disease as a cell surface protein called dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4).

They also found cells containing DPP4 receptors were common in the lower respiratory tract but not in the upper respiratory tract—giving clues to why the virus causes illness in the lungs rather than in the nose and throat as a cold virus would.

The findings should help researchers find ways of developing potential drugs or vaccines to block the DPP4 receptors and prevent infection, Haagmans said.

A few drugs that block DPP4 receptors are already on the market, licensed for use in diabetes, but Haagmans said his team already tried using those to stop the virus in laboratory tests and found they did not work.

He said, however, that the team was working with other molecules that might block the receptors and could form the basis for developing a potential vaccine.

Initial analysis by scientists at Britain’s Health Protection Agency last year found that NcoV’s closest relatives were most probably bat viruses.

Yet further work by a research team in Germany suggests NCoV may have come through an intermediary—possibly goats.

Haagmans said since DPP4 receptors were also present in other species, including bats, his findings showed it was feasible the virus came from bats. He said the idea that goats may have been an intermediary also looked feasible.

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Did you enjoy this health article? Click here to receive new health articles by email.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Donald Trump certainly needs your prayers.

    Why You Must Pray for Donald Trump

    Here are eight ways I plan to intercede for President Trump regularly.

  • Pastor Jim Garlow in a file photo shown praying.

    Conservative Christian Leaders Gather in DC, Calling Trump's Election an Answer to Prayer

    "Although the news media is predicting protests, what I'm seeing is that everyone is abuzz ...

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • Here's a prophetic word for Washington, D.C.

    Prophecy: The Lord Is Raising Up Daniels in DC

    I believe we're on the precipice of a Third Great Awakening the Lord spoke to my heart about in ...

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • Bishop Eddie Long died at 63.

    Bishop Eddie Long Dead at 63

    "Although his transition leaves a void for those of us who loved him dearly, we can celebrate ...

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Watch for these danger signals for choosing poorly.

    4 Signs You're Making a Bad Decision

    Avoid distraction and disappointment by testing your choices with these 4 principles.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit