The Science of Pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19): We All Need to Understand

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The world is currently taken by the storm of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We all are locked down inside our homes, it seems life has come to halt. Everyone is praying hard and hope soon these black clouds of Coronavirus will go away.

The only positive thing that this virus has for us is the time of togetherness with our family and closed ones. All of a sudden, the race of our life is paused and we have understood that nothing is much more important than life on this earth. 

Everyone is curious to know more about this dangerous disease and precautions needed to take to avoid its contamination.

The Indian government came with the concept of “Janta curfew” and afterward there is a complete lockdown in the country. The government is now and again emphasizing on “Social-Distancing” and urging all of us to stay indoors. 

The lockdown has brought out a lot of human emotions for each other. We do understand the value of doctors, nurses, media people and all other social workers engaged in the service of humanity.

The gratitude that we Indians have expressed towards these “Corona-Warriors” is exemplary. There is no doubt that it’s the time of “Social-Distancing” but I will say we have proved this time to be as “Social-Loving” by taking care of each and every individual of the society.

There is a lot of panic, fear, and hope going on in all of us. The situation no doubt is scary but I feel this is the time to educate ourselves with the science behind this pandemic disease.

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I want to give my small contribution to this by putting some light on the science behind this deadly disease (COVID-19). The biggest challenge currently in the world is this pandemic disease.

A lot of questions pop out in my mind also, “Why to maintain Social-Distancing? Why there is no cure for this disease? Are we testing enough people in India? Why the government is pushing us to stay at home? Is it really the only alternative to save our life?”

A few well-aware things associated with this disease are:

  • The disease is spread by a newly discovered coronavirus (WHO).
  • No vaccine has been discovered till now. The clinical trials are going on but it will take time as drug discovery is a lengthy process. It involves a lot of regulations and experimentation.

Thanks to our government, media and all people working dedicatedly towards awareness of this disease. Within a short period of time, we all know the symptoms and precautions we need to take to keep this disease at bay.

While taking a sip of tea something hit my mind, “Why is this disease so cruel and taking lives of people?”

Being from a molecular biology background, I researched a lot on this burning topic. I tried to understand this disease from a biology perspective. I discussed with my ex-labmates about the current scenario and the challenges we are facing in India to control/monitor this disease. No doubt the Indian government and associated people are doing a commendable job to control the outbreak of this Coronavirus.

But if we look from the scientific point of view there are a couple of things, we all need to know. I would love to share a few of them with you and I will really appreciate it if you will add your valuable comments so that we all get well equipped with the knowledge of this disease and keep ourselves and our loved ones completely safe.

The testing procedures for the detection of Coronavirus in India are:

1) Thermal Screening: This is the first procedure followed to check the Coronavirus infection. It is a process of detecting radiation. A person with a fever will emit more radiation as compared to a normal person. 

2) Serological Methods: These tests are used to detect the antibodies that our body produces to fight against any type of infection/pathogens called “Antigens.”  These antibodies are present in blood and tissues and the serological test is usually done using blood samples. India has 106 virus research and diagnostic labs (VRDLs).

3) Molecular Diagnostic Method: There are a few reports that mention, “Why India is testing little for Coronavirus?” The World Health Organization (WHO) stresses two things:

  • Social-Distancing
  • Test and more test

The test involved for Covid-19 is “Reverse transcription Polymerase Chain reaction” or RT-PCR. It is an expensive test and involves a lot of expensive chemicals/reagents to complete the detection process. 

The swab sample is collected from the suspected patient and RNA or ribonucleic acid is extracted and converted to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that is then amplified with short, synthesized fragments of nucleic acid called “Primers.” The fluorescent dye called “Probe” that illuminates in the presence of DNA is used to identify the virus/pathogen.

So, a lot of cost and time is involved to test a sample for Covid-19. The testing kits and the RT-PCR machines both are the required things for testing. The chemicals in these kits are expensive and mishandling can result in loss of chemicals and time wastage. So, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has authorized only a few laboratories in India to test for the disease. 

The whole-genome sequencing is done for SARS-CoV-2 that can definitely help to speed up the diagnostic and therapeutic. WHO has claimed that a drug for Coronavirus will be available in 18 months. Internationally, we have seen that information and knowledge is shared rapidly across different nations. These are few good points that are definitely we need to look on rather than going in panic.

MyLab Pune has become the first Indian private lab to design a testing kit with a cheap price (rupees 1200/-) and gives result within two and a half hours. Mylab’s research and development chief, Minal Dakhave Bhosale, deserves the special appreciation as she delivered her baby after serving the nation first. 

We all need to understand the science involved with this viral disease is too complex. Firstly, this disease is recently discovered so definitely it’s going to take time for the drug discovery. The scientist community first needs to understand the molecular structure/ biology of this deadly virus to get a cure. The best way here is to keep yourself isolated/quarantined and keep “Social-Distancing” until we get control over this pandemic.

Please make sure you all are safe during this critical time.  Remember together we can fight back this virus.

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Dr. Jyoti Sharma Pillai
The author has been an academic writer and editor for more than eight years. The author has diverse experience and has provided freelance services to various organizations. Her doctorate degree in the field of biology has given her a wide spectrum to write on different topics. She loves to write about topics related to early childhood education, data-analysis, environment, and human psychology. Her research papers and articles are published in well-renowned journals and pages. She works as a freelance writer and counselor also. She has well-traveled and lived in different cities across India that have given her a platform to closely observe different cultures and traditions. Her hobbies include listening to classic rock and traveling.

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