Semmelweis University just announced that its researchers, together with researchers from the National Security Laboratory of the National Center for Public Health, were able to study the structure of the active and infectious coronavirus and found that the corona-shaped spikes covering the surface of the virus are extremely flexible, like a rubber ball, and the virus has the ability to self-heal and may be one of the most resilient biological organisms known to humanity, as its structure is not damaged by physical impact. All these could greatly contribute to its unusually high infectivity.
In the past months, researchers at Semmelweis University have gathered a great amount of knowledge about the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), although there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding its function and properties. This current study published by the researcher group led by Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, examined the structure of the coronavirus in collaboration with the researchers of the National Security Laboratory of the National Center for Public Health.
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The surface of SARS-COV-2 particles was scanned with the application of atomic force microscopy. In their paper they described the corona-shaped layer of spikes as extremely flexible and showed that the organism itself is also particularly resilient: it can be easily compressed but it easily restores its original shape, like a “rubber ball,” while its structure and properties are not damaged by physical impact. According to Kellermayer, the mechanical and self-healing properties of the virus may enable its adaption to a wide range of environmental conditions.
According to the university, the research is unique in a way, as all previous publications were based on research done on inactivated, chemically treated or frozen samples, while the Hungarian research group studied active and infectious coronavirus. One of the processes was carried out on the coronavirus particle 100 times, and the virus remained almost completely intact, which supports the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 may be one of the physically most resilient and resistant viruses known to humanity.
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The group also examined several properties of the structure of the virus. Viruses usually become vulnerable when leaving the host, however SARS-CoV-2 is able to maintain its infectivity for a long time on the surface of objects. The study suggests that the flexibility of the spikes covering the particle may contribute to this characteristic. Following a heat treatment at 90 Celsius degrees for 10 minutes, the general appearance of the virus was only slightly altered, it had lost some spikes, but remained structurally intact. This may also explain why it maintained its infectivity in warm-climate countries or despite the summer weather. According to the research group, all these could greatly contribute to its unusually high infectivity.
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