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Is there a COVID-19 weak point?

The reproduction of COVID-19 can be inhibited by chemical compounds, reducing the multiplication of the virus in infected cells .

People lining up for vaccination

Although vaccines are already in the immunization scheme in most countries, we have seen enormous inequality in their distribution and application in less developed nations. Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Leer en español: ¿Hay un punto débil del Covid-19?

Since the pandemic began and given the great social and economic impact of it, coming out of the COVID-19 crisis has been a painful path for humanity. For the same reason, clinical trials in humans were accelerated to achieve the antidote that will allow us to return to normality as soon as possible .

Today the planet already has the solution in its hands. Various vaccines were approved by the World Health Organization and, although they are already in the immunization schedule in most countries, we have seen enormous inequality in their distribution and application in less developed nations.

However, having the vaccine will not prevent people from getting it or the virus from disappearing altogether . What it will do is allow everyday life to become more flexible in the immunization process and it will greatly decrease the known risks of the new coronavirus. Likewise, SARS-CoV-2 will become a simple flu, since it will not have the powerful lethal effects in some population.

Also read: How true is it that there are more effective vaccines than others?

However, having vaccines at our disposal does not mean that everything ends there. The scientific community continues to make progress in its improvements and multiple universities have taken advantage of this conjunctural opportunity to design new studies on how COVID-19 impacts almost all the functions of the body . This is very important because it will help science to learn more about their behavior and how we can combat it accurately and forcefully.

This time, a team of Swiss researchers from the Federal Polytechnic University of Zurich (ETH Zürich), together with collaborators from Ireland, have been given the task of studying in depth the way in which the virus spreads through the body to design new drugs that prevent its spread .

In the research that was published in the journal Science, the scientists explained that "the coronavirus critically depends on a special mechanism for the production of its proteins" and after having extracted all its molecular information they discovered the chemical compounds that can inhibit it to reduce its multiplication in cells .

For the virus to replicate, it needs resources from an infected cell . What causes new viral proteins to be produced following the processes of the viral RNA genome and, therefore, the ribosome (whose function is to make the proteins of the cells) produces what the virus needs. To understand it more simply, the virus, when it infects a person, infects cells and needs these cells to start producing food to create more coronaviruses and thus infect more cells. RNA is that list of ingredients that the virus sends the infected cell to produce the "nutrients" of the virus.

“In the absence of viral infection, the ribosome moves along the RNA in strictly defined steps, reading three letters of the RNA at a time. This three-letter code defines the corresponding amino acid that binds to the growing protein, ”the researchers say.

Later, they explain in the article: “It almost never happens that the ribosome slides one or two letters of RNA backwards or forwards instead of following the regular three-letter steps. When ribosome slippage occurs, it is called a 'frame shift' and leads to an incorrect reading of the genetic code . "

This abnormality that they discovered in the ribosome during the study is not common to occur in the body, but it is an essential step and opens the door for any chemical compound that inhibits the "frame shift" can be very useful as a medicine to combat the virus .