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SARS-CoV-2: An Overview of Virus Genetics, Transmission, and Immunopathogenesis

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Abstract: The human population is currently facing the third and possibly the worst pandemic caused by human coronaviruses (CoVs). The virus was first reported in Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019 and spread within a short time to almost all countries of the world. Genome analysis of the early virus isolates has revealed high similarity with SARS-CoV and hence the new virus was officially named SARS-CoV-2. Since CoVs have the largest genome among all RNA viruses, they can adapt to many point mutation and recombination events; particularly in the spike gene, which enable these viruses to rapidly change and evolve in nature. CoVs are known to cross the species boundaries by using different cellular receptors. Both animal reservoir and intermediate host for SARS-CoV-2 are still unresolved and necessitate further investigation. In the current review, different aspects of SARS-CoV-2 biology and pathogenicity are discussed, including virus genetics and evolution, spike protein and its role in evolution and adaptation to novel hosts, and virus transmission and persistence in nature. In addition, the immune response developed during SARS-CoV-2 infection is demonstrated with special reference to the interplay between immune cells and their role in disease progression. We believe that the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak will not be the last and spillover of CoVs from bats will continue. Therefore, establishing intervention approaches to reduce the likelihood of future CoVs spillover from natural reservoirs is a priority.
Keywords: coronavirus / COVID-19 / cross-species transmission / evolution / immune response / SARS-CoV-2
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