I’ve been writing a Monday note since 2009. The topic has usually been inspired by what’s in the news from a diet or health perspective. Whether the EAT Lancet diet being launched on the world, or the latest epidemiological paper to come out of Harvard – the topic that has made the headlines has been the one most likely to be featured.
This week there is only one health news story and it’s the same story worldwide – Coronavirus. I’ve been reticent to write about it, as the situation is uncertain and continuous, and this note will date faster than any I have written. (Hence why it’s coming out early – to be as current as possible). But it is the topic of most interest and so l will approach this topic as I would any other – What are the facts? What does the data tell us? Where best to find more information? I found the note very interesting to research and I hope you find it interesting to read…
What is Coronavirus? (Ref 1)
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of viruses that are called "zoonotic", meaning that they are transmitted between animals and people. The word Corona in Latin means crown or garland. They are called coronaviruses because each virus particle looks like it is surrounded by a crown/garland when viewed under a microscope. There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses, known as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.
Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. The seven coronaviruses that can infect people are split into ones that people commonly get around the world, but that have mild symptoms:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
and three others, which have proved more serious:
- MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
- SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
- SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19)
When we are talking about 'the coronavirus' today, we are talking about COVID-19. This is a new coronavirus, which has not previously been identified in humans. We are dealing with something quite unknown with COVID-19, but we can learn some lessons from MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. A paper published in the European Journal of Immunology on February 27th called "COVID-19: Lessons from SARS and MERS" is a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding how the viruses are similar and different (Ref 2).