A new study on the novel coronavirus has claimed that the nose is likely to be the main source of the “viral entry points” of the disease. The team behind the findings expressed their hope that the new information can help health experts and officials stop the spread of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 3 million people across the globe and claimed over 205,000 lives.
According to Science Daily, researchers discovered that COVID-19 relied on two specific proteins — ACE2 and TMPRSS2 protease — to gain entry into human cells. Accordingly, they sought to see which tissues had higher amounts of the proteins that the coronavirus could utilize.
After taking around 20 different tissue samples from places like the lung, nasal cavity, eye, gut, and kidney, they found that the vulnerable proteins were expressed the most in cells on the inner lining of the nose, specifically the mucus-producing goblet cells and ciliated cells.
Those two cells “had the highest levels of both these COVID-19 virus proteins, of all cells in the airways. This makes these cells the most likely initial infection route for the virus,” concluded Dr. Waradon Sungnak of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, who was the first author on the paper.
Dr. Martijn Nawijn of the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands and the HCA Lung Biological Network also added his thoughts on the new discovery.
“This is the first time these particular cells in the nose have been associated with COVID-19. While there are many factors that contribute to virus transmissibility, our findings are consistent with the rapid infection rates of the virus seen so far,” Nawijn explained.
“The location of these cells on the surface of the inside of the nose make them highly accessible to the virus, and also may assist with transmission to other people,” he added.
The study also found the cells in the eye contain the coronavirus-susceptible proteins, though at far lower levels than those in the nose.
However, what many might find most promising is that the scientists also discovered how the key entry proteins worked with in conjunction with other immune system genes — paving the way for a potential treatment or even vaccine.
But for now, the new findings can help highlight the importance of wearing masks that cover the nose, in addition to keeping hands away from the face.
The study is not the only new information about the coronavirus that has emerged this week. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, new atypical symptoms of the disease have been reported, including “COVID toes,” a feature that tends to manifest itself in children.