Coronavirus is a general term for a virus that exists widely in nature. Coronavirus was first discovered in 1968, and was officially named the Coronavirus family in 1975 by the International Virus Naming Commission. Under the electron microscope, they can be observed that there are corona-like radial protrusions on their surface, about 80-120 nm. It looks like a crown, so it's named Coronavirus. From the perspective of systematic classification, coronaviruses belong to the order Nidovirales, Coronaviridae, and Coronavirus.
Fig 1. Phylogenetic Analysis of 2019-nCoV and Other Betacoronavirus Genomes in the Orthocoronavirinae Subfamily (Na Zhu, et al. 2020)
Coronaviruses are divided into four genera: α, β, γ, and δ. The coronaviruses that infect mammals are mainly α and β coronaviruses; the coronaviruses that infect birds are mainly derived from γ and δ coronaviruses.
Of the coronaviruses discovered to date, only seven have been found to infect humans. Among them, HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63 belong to the α genus coronavirus, and HCoV-OC43, SARS-CoV, HCoV-HKU1, MERS-CoV, and 2019-nCoV belong to the β genus coronavirus. Although both SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV belong to the β coronavirus, they are not the same.
Figure 2. Global Distribution of Human Coronaviruses. (A) Green, blue, brown, and purple represent the global distribution of the NL63, HKU1, OC43, and 229E human coronaviruses, respectively. (B) Red and yellow represent the global distribution of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, respectively. (Shuo Su, et al. 2016)
Figure 3. Visualization of 2019-nCoV with Transmission Electron Microscopy. (Na Zhu, et al. 2020)
Coronaviruses bind to host receptors through the S protein, which infects host cells. Coronavirus S protein has high diversity and complex mechanisms.
Studies show that SARS-CoV- 2/COVID-19 can enter cells through ACE2 receptors on the surface of cell membranes, which is the same pathway as SARS-CoV enters cells (Hansen Chen, et al. 2020). This also proves the close relationship between the origin of SARS-CoV- 2/COVID-19 and SARS-CoV, and belongs to the SARS-associated coronavirus.
Table. Receptors of some coronavirus
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