How Covid-19 virus works

Illustration from The Federal

Covid-19 Vaccination in Texas

Everyone 5 years old and older is currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.

Understand how the Covid-19 virus works. Your best defense against Covid-19 is the vaccine. Get vaccinated now!

Coronaviruses and Covid-19

Coronaviruses, thousands of different ones, live on earth. We are most familiar, these days, with SARS-CoV-2, or Covid-19. Four coronaviruses cause our common colds, and others caused SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

The newest, SARS-CoV-2, is far deadlier than those because it hides inside lung cells, making copies of itself without showing symptoms before it starts infecting other people. It uses the lung cell systems to replicate itself, then bursts out, killing the lung cell. When it bursts out, the immune system reacts strongly, trying to neutralize or destroy the pathogens, but frequently suffocating the cells it is trying to save with mucus (macrophages…think white blood cells).

The viruses can prevent or intercept the lung cell’s signals, buying itself time to replicate widely. The SARS-CoV-2 genome is very long and proofreads and corrects its copies as they are made. Only viruses with very long genomes can do this.

How the Covid-19 virus works

For humans to survive this pandemic, we must pay attention to how the virus works and how to keep it from killing us.

The Covid-19 virus gets into a lung cell when you breathe it in

10 minutes after exposure: A Covid-19 particle binds to an ACE2 receptor that normally helps regulate your blood pressure. Then the particle inserts itself into the cell membrane and creates a channel for its proteins and RNA to go into the lung cell.

10 hours after exposure: The lung cell changes virus RNA genes into proteins and the virus RNA duplicates itself, making more viral proteins and new virus particles that break out of the lung cell. One infected lung cell can release hundreds of virus copies. Some travel to infect more cells, while others are exhaled into the air.

Immune system defenses

from 0 to 3 days: Your immune system tries immediately to protect your lung cells. The infected cell uses Interferon to alert neighboring cells to try to stop virus particles from entering and reproducing. It also prompts macrophages to engulf virus particles and immobilize them.

from 6 to 11 days: Interferon also alerts B cells to produce “neutralizing antibodies” that might recognize parts of the virus’s spike protein, bind to it, and prevent it from grabbing onto a lung cell. Interferon also enlists T cells to destroy viruses and kill infected cells. Some of these B and T cells retain the memory of the virus and can quickly identify and fight the virus’s future invasion.

Drugs and vaccines

The virus tries to thwart these defenses, but drugs and vaccines can intervene

Most drugs would not destroy the virus itself but would interfere enough to allow your immune system to clear the infection. Antivirals generally stop a virus from attaching to a lung cell, prevent it from reproducing, or dampen your immune system’s overreaction. Vaccines prepare your immune system to fight a future infection quickly and effectively.

Vaccine options and strategies and how Covid-19 virus works

A vaccine exposes your immune system to a safe version of the virus, so it can practice making antibodies. Using a modified version of the actual virus can use a weakened virus, an inactivated virus, or pieces of the virus. Then the antigen-presenting cell starts an immune response.

DNA, RNA, and a safe virus map genes from the virus and insert only the blueprints for injecting into people. Then the host cells make virus pieces, and the cell presents them to T cells, starting an immune response.

Your immune system, with help from treatment, will clear the virus infection from your body.

For COVID-19 testing, drive up to our office

If you have medical insurance, you will only pay a co-pay. If you are uninsured, you will pay fee-for-service: PCR test, $125; Antibody and Rapid Antigen tests, $110 each.

When you arrive, stay in your car and call our receptionist at 281-298-5476. She will send a staff member to do your paperwork and your tests.

Covid-19 VaccinationCOVID-19 Tests ExplainedCOVID And Vitamin D

For an amazing, animated explanation of how SARS-CoV-2 works, see Scientific American’s interactive presentation.
Source: Scientific American, A Visual Guide to the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus, July 1, 2020

Illustration from The Federal

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