With new variants emerging, coronavirus has significantly changed its shape from its original form and now it attacks human organs differently, a recent study has revealed. The scientists also point out, that different virus variants can remain hidden in different parts of the body and “This could make it difficult for the infected patients to get rid of COVID entirely.”
The studies, published in the journal Nature Communications, also demonstrate how the virus can evolve distinctly in different cell types, and adapt its immunity, in the same infected host.
“An incessant series of variants have completely replaced the original virus by now, with Omicron and Omicron 2 (a subvariant) dominating worldwide,” said Professor Imre Berger from the University of Bristol.
“We analysed an early variant discovered in Bristol, BrisDelta. It had changed its shape from the original virus, but the pocket we had discovered was there, unaltered,” Berger said.
Different variants can infect us at the same time
The study also pointed out one can have several different virus variants in one’s body. And explaining how they can affect different organs, Kapil Gupta, lead author of the BrisDelta study, said, “Some of these variants may use kidney or spleen cells as their niche to hide, while the body is busy defending against the dominant virus type. This could make it difficult for the infected patients to get rid of SARS-CoV-2 entirely,” Gupta said.
Why switching shape became an advantage for the virus?
This switching ‘shape’ mechanism effectively cloaks the virus from the immune system, according to the researchers.
“By ‘ducking down’ of the spike protein upon binding of inflammatory fatty acids, the virus becomes less visible to the immune system,” said Oskar Staufer, lead author of the second study.
“This could be a mechanism to avoid detection by the host and a strong immune response for a longer period of time and increase total infection efficiency,” Staufer said.
“It appears that this pocket, specifically built to recognise these fatty acids, gives SARS-CoV-2 an advantage inside the body of infected people, allowing it to multiply so fast. This could explain why it is there, in all variants, including Omicron” Berger added.