The Anatomy Of Coronavirus & How We Can Use It To Our Advantage
We are more than familiar with the terms of Coronavirus and in particular COVID-19, as the pandemic has caused the world to slow down considerably, closing businesses and preventing travelling. However, as the lockdown has eased and companies come out of the lockdown, we know we need to wash our hands more regularly and use certain cleaning chemicals, but do we understand why need to use them? We explain what the virus is; its anatomy and how we can disrupt it to protect ourselves.
Anatomy of COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that affect mammals and birds, that can transfer between species. In birds and humans, symptoms present as respiratory tract infections (i.e. cold, flu-like, possible bronchitis and pneumonia type symptoms). In farm animals, such as cows and pigs they tend to present as diarrhoea. Generally, mildly infectious, there have been a few fatal exceptions such as SARS, MERS and the recent COVID-19.
So, what is COVID-19? Made of 3 key components - genetic material (RNA - a single short strand of gene coding, primarily concerned with replication), protein and lipids (fatty acids). As an enveloped virus, which is a virus that has an outer layer of protein that protects the genetic material while travelling between hosts (think the shape of an orange and its skin). COVID-19's outer layer is spiked to help anchor itself to a host cell so that it can infect the host more easily.
How is it transmitted? Generally, viruses are airborne diseases (Flu, Common Cold) and hang around in the air after leaving a host. COVID-19 transfers by water droplets created by talking, coughing and sneezing. The droplets can hang around in the air for 10 minutes, the difference here, is that once they drop to the floor or a surface they don't degrade, and there is evidence COVID can survive for up to 72 hours.
How do we defeat it?
While the most common route of infection is close contact with infected persons, another path is in contact with contaminated surfaces, so what actions can you take?
Other than employing social distancing as much as possible, we do come in contact with surfaces that other people have touched. By far, one of the essential self-defence techniques in reducing the chance of infection is handwashing. So, how does hand washing work? Soap (a surfactant) is like the lipid layer protecting the virus, only its stronger and disrupts the lipids, pulling apart the coating, exposing the delicate genetic material to the elements and rendering it useless.
What do you do if you can't wash your hands? You can use alcohol-based hand sanitiser liquids or gels. For Ethanol based products, the alcohol content needs to be over 70%, why is this effective? Alcohol above a certain percentage will disrupt the lipid layer and can alter the genetic material, reducing its effectiveness.
If you are not sure you are washing your hands correctly, why not watch our video on the Ayliffe technique here.
As premises reopen, cleaning regimes will need to be stepped up and surfaces cleaned more regularly. Cleaning regimes should include the use of bleach and chlorine-based disinfectants. Chlorine is a strong oxidising agent, bonding with proteins and breaking bonds, causing molecular damage, and stopping the virus from working. For a choice of bleaches, disinfectants and virucidal cleaners go here, and if you want to know about how effective they are against tackling bacteria, fungi and viruses, read this article here.