How does the novel coronavirus infect a cell?

Due to its unique features, the novel coronavirus is particularly good at infecting new cells, both in the upper respiratory tract, as well as deeper down in the lungs. Here’s a look at how the process takes place.

  1. The microscopic virus enters through the nose or mouth, where it begins its infection of our airways.
  2. The outer spike protein of the coronavirus latches onto specific receptors on the surface of cells in our respiratory tract. In the case of COVID-19, the virus latches on to the ACE2 receptor.
  3. This binding triggers the process by which the virus fuses into human cells. The viral envelope merges with the oily membrane of our own cells, allowing the virus to release its genetic material into the inside of the healthy cell.
  4. The genetic blueprint of the virus is RNA (instead of DNA), which acts as a molecular message, instructing our host cell machinery to read the template and translate it into proteins that make up new virus particles.