As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers and doctors are hard at work to understand novel coronavirus and develop an effective treatment in an attempt to curb the outbreak. Among many studies, one of the researches claims to have made a groundbreaking discovery about SARS-CoV-2 that is expected to brings scientists a step closer to develop a treatment plan.

According to Medical News Today, in a study, five researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were studying coronaviruses from the past SARS-CoV that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome and MERS-CoV that is responsible from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, better known as MERS when they turned their attention to the new coronavirus that has led to a pandemic and claimed over 120,000 deaths globally.

As per the report, the focus of their previous and current research remained "function of the spike protein." It is a major surface protein that the virus is believed to use to invade the human body. The protein is used by viruses to transfer their genetic information into human cells and cause a deadly infection.

The findings by the five scientists—Tiffany Tang, Miya Bidon, Javier Jaimes, Ph.D., Gary Whittaker, Ph.D., and Prof. Susan Daniel—were published in the journal named Antiviral Research.

The research reportedly studied the structure of the spike proteins and its fusion peptides and short-chain amino acids. The report goes on to explain how the virus goes through a process called "membrane fusion" that enables them to transfer the information and cause infection.

This process involves the virus recognising a susceptible cell and binding the receptor to the target cells with the help of spike protein. This ensures that the virus transmits and replicates the information. The current scenario encouraged the scientists to perform a comparative study of the fusion peptides in the two coronaviruses and helped them find that their biological sequences of the fusion peptides are a 93 percent match. Therefore, it is believed that the mechanism impacting the fusion peptides could also be similar.

"What's really interesting about SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, and this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, is this particular part of the protein, the fusion peptide, is almost exactly the same in those three viruses," said Susan Daniel as quoted.

"Blocking the fusion step is significant because the fusion machinery doesn't evolve and change as fast as other parts of the protein do. It's been built to do a particular thing, which is to merge these two membranes together. So, if you can develop antiviral strategies to reduce that efficiency, you could have potentially very broadly-acting treatments," Daniel explains.

As per the report, scientists believe that their study could help researchers understand the mechanism of new coronavirus better and what makes humans a suitable host for it to replicate. In addition, the researchers from Cornell University have received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in support of their endeavours to discover an antiviral to curb the fast-spreading virus.

Novel coronavirus
Lebanese nationals repatriated from Qatar enter quarantine at a hotel in the Lebanese capital Beirut. Photo: AFP / -

So far, there have been close to 2,000,000 cases all over the world. However, there is still no vaccine for the treatment.