It’s time to get geeky about COVID 19. There is SO much information floating around out there and the majority of it is only partial truths and flat out scare tactics. In order to make sense of all this myself, I have been diving into the research. I have realized that many of you are craving this type of information based on the types of phone calls we have been receiving. Therefore, I am going to do a mini-series of the COVID-19 over the next several days. I know it is a lot of emails so please realize this will be short lived and just delete them if you don’t want to read them. I promise I will go back to weekly emails next week so don’t unsubscribe!
Here is what I will be addressing in this series:
- Getting geeky about viruses – today
- Who is at risk
- What to take BEFORE you get the virus to protect you
- What to take IF you get the virus (big differences in before and during so be sure and read this one)
The coronavirus got its name from the appearance of a halo or crown under an electron microscope. Corona is the latin word for crown. COVID-19 is from Corona Virus Disease – 2019. It is being called a NOVEL virus because our bodies have never been exposed to any variation of this virus therefore nobody has antibodies to it.
We have been dealing with coronaviruses for over 100 years.
- H1N1 – “Spanish flu” in 1918 (affected 1-3% of world’s population with 50-100 million deaths worldwide)
- H2N2 – “Asian flu” in 1957
- H3N2 – “Kong flu” in 1968 (affected .03% of world’s population)
- H5N1 – “bird flu” in 1996
- H1N1 – “swine flu” in 2009 (affected .001-.007% or world’s population with 151,700-575,400 deaths worldwide..12,469 in US)
- COVID 19 – 2019 is a different strain of the SARS virus like the H1N1 but I could not find its actual classification
Understanding how viruses work in general really gives a realization on why some of the recommendations are so important. READ ON….
First, a virus is not really a living organism. Outside of a cell it is inert (meaning it has no action). It is a protein molecule that has a protective shell called a capsid. This capsids sole purpose is to keep the viral genome safe and help it attach to cells so it can climb inside. The H and the N numbers in the description of each virus gives more scientific information on how these cells attach. Many viruses like the coronavirus is surrounded by a greasy, fat layer called the envelope. The virus itself is very fragile. When you disrupt the viral fat layer then it disrupts the underlying mission which is to infect another cell. This is why washing your hands with soap and water is the NUMBER ONE thing you can do to protect yourself. In addition, other things that disrupt this fatty layer includes alcohol which is why you want your hand sanitizers to be greater than 65% alcohol. Other things that can disrupt these envelopes include heat (which is why we see decreased viral illnesses during summer months) or a mixture of bleach (one part bleach to 5 parts water).
For a virus to spread, it has to find a way into the cell. It does this by latching on to receptors that cells have. Viruses are very smart because they know our cell membranes require an admission ticket to get it so they create their own ticket (kind of like a fake drivers license when someone is underage). The COVID-19 virus (as well as prior coronaviruses) targets the ACE2 receptor (angiotensin converting enzyme 2). Right now you might have a bell ringing in your head because you may have heard of ACE inhibitors. ACE inhibitors are medications used to control blood pressure but the majority of these are ACE 1 inhibitors. When someone is on an ACE 1 inhibitor the number of ACE 2 receptors increase. Diabetes also increase the number of ACE 2 receptors. Perhaps this is why people who have heart disease (who are typically on blood pressure medications) and diabetes are having more serious outcomes with this virus?? Research is actually looking at this very possibility. On the flip side if you block the ACE2 receptor the theory would be that the virus would not be able to latch on and cause a tirade. **Be sure and tune in later this week because I am going to tell you some natural ACE2 blockers that might just help!
Once the virus gets in the cell it starts programming that cell to produce more viral proteins and more capsids. When that cell gets full the new baby viruses just formed either burst thru the membrane or they exit the cell thru a process called budding (think of this like a bubble coming out of a cell) where the virus is now cloaked in our own cells membrane and released to go attach new cells. This new bud is carried by our own cholesterol. Maybe this is another reason people who have heart disease are having a harder time – they typically have more cholesterol. The original cell is either destroyed or very damaged in this process.
The body then sends out a team to try to combat the virus invasion by releasing something called cytokines. The cytokines rush over to the infected cell and tries to combat the virus and ends up producing inflammation. There are many different cytokines all intended to help you but sometimes when the viral load is too high, certain genetic predispositions as well as unknown reasons the body will suddenly develop an excessive cytokine response resulting in significant inflammation. When this happens it is called a “cytokine storm”. This is one of the reasons the coronaviruses is such a problem. We learned this with the “bird flu” and “swine flu” which were also coronaviruses.
When the cytokines are released in the lung area and ensuing inflammation results it can lead to critical destruction of the lung tissues resulting in something called ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). The amount of inflammation produced by this process prevents the lungs from collecting oxygen. This is why these people are needing ventilators until the inflammatory response improves. Our prior experience with the swine flu, SARS virus, found the rapid rise of a simple marker (ferritin) that can help determine if a person is entering into a cytokine storm. I hope our hospital systems are looking at this marker which will tip them off that a patient is getting ready to crash.
The virus can also infect the red blood cells and the bone marrow which makes the red blood cells. The same process happens to them as in the lung cells and as a result there are fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen. So the virus decreases the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed into the lungs as well as decrease the ability to carry the oxygen. This is why people can get so sick and end up with significant entire body damage.
Hope this helps give us all a baseline understanding.
To your health,