Before we look into the science behind the Wuhan outbreak, let's briefly touch on how we can protect ourselves from becoming infected, and from infecting others. Apart from the guidelines issued to us by the Singapore Ministry of Health, regarding personal hygeine, use of masks, etc., we can also boost our immune systems. A healthy diet, exercise, and a positive outlook will go a long way to ensuring your immune system is robust enough to repel an attack from the virus. Many people here in Singapore have asked us what supplements we would recommend. We've shortlisted them as follows...
Health supplements that may help can be divided into three categories:
- Supplements that strengthen the immune system,
- Natural antivirals that help defeat the virus itself
- Adaptogens that strengthen the body and help to recover quickly
Supplements that strengthen the immune system include:
- Multivitamins (including Vitamin C)
- High quality Whey Protein
Natural antivirals that help defeat the virus itself:
- Medicinal mushrooms" such as Agaricus Blazei, Ling Zhi etc
- Oregano Oil
- Olive Leaf Extract
Adaptogens that strengthen the body and help to recover quickly:
- Eleuthero (aka Siberian Ginseng)
- Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Now, let's understand more about what we are dealing with:
WUHAN CORONAVIRUS is caused by a previously unknown coronavirus, now called "2019-nCoV". Coronaviruses get their name because of the way they look: they appear to have a halo or crown ("corona" in Latin) when viewed under a microscope. Coronavirus particles are irregularly shaped, with an outer envelope that has distinctive, "club-shaped" peplomers (a subunit of a virus particle).
Coronaviruses are RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses that replicate in the cytoplasm of the animal host cells, and cause disease in humans and animals, including the common cold. Coronavirus infections are very common and occur worldwide. The incidence of infection is strongly seasonal, with its greatest incidence among children and the elderly, especially in
winter. Healthy adult infections are less frequent. Coronaviruses can occasionally cause more severe disease, such as pneumonia, but this is rare. In fact, before SARS Coronavirus was discovered, the human coronaviruses previously known were only associated with mild diseases. SARS-related CoV seems to be the first coronavirus that regularly caused potentially fatal illness in humans.
The newly discovered Wuhan coronavirus seems very hardy and can survive in the environment without being inside a host for several hours. All viruses have short lives when not attached to a living cell. The new Wuhan coronavirus has some unusual properties. For one, just like the SARS virus, it can be grown in Vero cells (a cell line isolated in 1962 from
a primate). This is an unusual characteristic of HCoVs (human coronaviruses), most of which cannot be cultivated.
You might wonder, if coronaviruses usually cause only mild illness in humans, then how can this new coronavirus be responsible for a potentially life-threatening disease like 2019-nCoV? Because the Wuhan virus is so recently identified, there is not yet enough information about it to determine the full range of illnesses that it might be able to cause. Coronaviruses have occasionally been linked to pneumonia in humans, especially in people with weakened immune systems, such as children and the elderly.
The viruses can also cause severe disease in animals. The outbreak in China in the Hubei province is believed
to have started when humans became infected as they raised and slaughtered wild animals for food. Coronaviruses that are 99% similar genetically to the surface spike protein of human SARS isolates have been found in Wuhan, possibly from bats
or snakes. (SARS originated from apparently healthy masked palm civets, a cat-like mammal closely related to the mongoose). It is possible that people in Wuhan first contracted the corona virus by eating these local animals.
Determining the genome sequence of the Wuhan coronavirus is extremely important to aid in the diagnosis of virus infections in humans and other potential animal hosts. In addition, identifying the Wuhan CoV genome is also important, because it
may suggest whether it did, in fact, originate in animals, and how transmission of Wuhan Coronavirus between species took place. Similar viruses had been identified in some species of animals before the this epidemic, but only now had they been
isolated in humans, indicating an animal-to-human transmission route. Lastly, knowing the Wuhan genome helps in the development of antiviral drugs and vaccines for the disease because scientists can try to find molecules that block the virus's
activity or bind to the virus to make it inactive. The genome sequence data of SARS revealed that the new agent did not belong to any of the previously known groups of coronaviruses. It seems that the new Wuhan coronavirus supports the
hypothesis that it is an animal virus, for which the normal host is still unproven, and that has recently either developed the ability to infect humans or has been able to cross the species barrier. There is a strong belief based on research in Hong
Kong that the virus could have come from the snakes or bats sold in Chinese markets to humans, because those anamels are born in the wild and then captured and raised in farms. They could therefore have acquired the virus from a wild animal.
Despite having this information, little has been done to prevent the sale of wildlife in markets and restaurants in China, where it's presence on the dinner table is considered a status symbol due to its high price.
In 2003, Dr. Malik Peiris and his colleagues at the University of Hong Kong were the first to identify the new type of coronavirus from two patients with SARS. They then found evidence of the same virus in 90% of the 50 patients they studied. This
coronavirus, which is responsible for SARS, was called SARS- CoV, short for Severe Acute Respiratory human coronavirus. A number of laboratories across the world undertook the job of determining the identity of the pathogen that was causing
SARS. The virus isolation was performed on a specimen from a person from the original case cluster from Toronto, Canada, who had died of the disease. A broncho-alveolar lavage was performed. This is a process in which water is squirted into the
respiratory tract and then the fluid is suctioned out and cultured in a growth medium to search for any pathogens that may be living in the respiratory tract. The National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada isolated the virus from a patient in
Toronto and succeeded in growing a coronavirus-like agent in African green monkey cells. This coronavirus was named publicly by the World Health Organization and cooperating laboratories on April 16,2003, as the "SARS virus."
The efforts of laboratories from 10 countries, together with WHO, helped speed up the identification of the SARS virus after the test of causation, including monkey inoculation. To prove causation - that is, to declare definitively that the new
coronavirus was the cause of SARS - the virus had to go through all four of Koch's Postulates for proving the causation of disease. As you will recall, this means the pathogen must be found in all cases of the disease, must be isolated from the host
and grown in pure culture, must reproduce the original disease when introduced into a susceptible host, and must be found in the experimental host that was infected.
In SARS patients, the novel coronavirus has been found in patients' bodily fluids. The virus has been cultured in an artificial culture. The serum of patients shows antibodies to the virus, and finally, the cultured virus produces disease in monkeys
(macaque monkeys). This is the process by which scientists have proven that SARS is caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV. Research in China and Hong Kong detected several coronaviruses that are closely related genetically to SARS-CoV in
two animal species (masked palm civet and raccoon-dog) and antibodies against SARS-CoV in one additional species (Chinese ferret badger). These and other wild animals are traditionally considered delicacies and are sold as food for human
consumption in markets throughout southern China. It became obvious to scientists that eating these infected animals was likely what spread the disease to humans. Isolating viruses from these animals indicated that the SARS virus can exist
outside of a human host.