Gut Bacteria and Immune System: How Are They Connected?

Our gut bacteria and immune system go way back…to the womb. They’ve developed complex checks and balances that see us through adulthood. Learn how gut bacteria and immune system cells communicate.
 
Out gut bacteria and immune system cells are OGs. They go way back to the womb. This lifelong friendship continues with us through birth, during life, and until we breathe our last breath. So, how did gut bacteria and immune system cells become besties? Let’s discuss the science behind our immune system and gut bacteria communication and how improving your gut health can boost your immune system naturally.

 

Gut Bacteria and Immune System at Birth

 
Our bodies host trillions of microbes that vary from fungi to viruses to bacteria. They are comprised of cell clusters. The space in which these beings coexist is called the microbiome [1].
 

gut bacteria and immune system birth
 

Not so shockingly, our mothers are also made of microbes. Therefore, her microbes were the first living beings you were in contact with. She also provides you with antibodies, food, and oxygen to grow. As a foreign being takes residence in her womb, her microbes investigate. After they realize that a beautiful life is forming, they help form your immune cells.
 
Once the delivery process begins, lifelong connections are made. These connections are just between mother and child. They’re between your immune cells and stomach bacteria.
As you make your descent into this world, you become introduced to your mom’s gut bacteria. Scientists believe that the placenta doesn’t have much bacteria [2]. So, this process is critical to providing a baby with gut bacteria and immune system cells that will support them outside of the womb.

 

How The Immune System Works

 

Our immune system is designed to attack intruders and concoct game plans, so these bad guys don’t return. The first line of defense is the innate immune system. These cells usually create inflammation at the first sign of any predator. Once the threat is extinguished, the inflammation ceases.
 

Innate vs. Adaptive Immune System
 
The adaptive immune system plays a long-term game. They learn the weaknesses of viruses and opportunistic bacteria. Then, they create antibodies to stop future infestations.

 

Why Gut Bacteria and Immune System Are Connected

 
When we’re dealing with toxins and food waste, you’re going to need a lot of immune cells. That’s why approximately 80% of our immune cells exist in the gut [3].
 

 
Our gut barrier is made of epithelial cells. They protect our healthy microbes and immune system cells from toxins and waste waiting to exit our intestines.
 
Whenever we eat, our food choices can cause a number of problems. If we eat an allergen, such as gluten, it may cause inflammation. The more we consume this allergen, the more inflammation it causes.
 
Over time, this inflammation destroys the epithelial cells, causing toxins to leak into the system. In the end, we develop Leaky Gut Syndrome.
 
In the same breath, eating foods devoid of prebiotics can starve off gut bacteria. Without beneficial gut bacteria, you have nothing to help you digest food, absorb nutrients, and fight off pathogens. This reaction adds stress on our immune system. Therefore, it’s everyone’s best interest to keep the other party happy.

 

How Gut Bacteria and Immune System Communicate

 
Since they’re neighbors with the same agenda, it’s a good idea for your gut bacteria and immune system cells to communicate. Research shows that they actually have an intricate and effective communication system. They use the gut barrier as their call line.
 
Both gut bacteria and immune system cells have an invested interest in maintaining the gut barrier. Therefore, they both contribute components to its structure that improve its functioning.
 
One meta-analysis of gut barrier structuring noted,
 

“The physical intestinal barrier consists of a continuous single layer of columnar epithelial cells overlain by a variably thick layer of mucus. This mucus layer is embedded with antibodies and antimicrobial peptides and physically separates the epithelium from direct contact with much of the luminal microbiota [4].”

Front Immunol

 
Both immune and epithelial cells have antimicrobial capabilities that help protect the microbiome. However, this is just the beginning of their symbiotic relationship.

 

How Microbes Communicate Along Gut Barrier

 
sensors gut bacteria and immune system
 

Epithelial cells monitor intestinal flora because they are equipped with immune receptors known as pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs) [5]. Based on the bacteria, epithelial cells adjust their microbial activity.
 
The gut barrier is further regulated by gut bacteria in our microbiome and fermenting in our intestines. Beneficial gut bacteria create waste in the form of short-chain fatty acids.
 
Short-chain fatty acids are like a One-Hour Energy for epithelial cells. They modulate functions, including allowing nutrients to leave the intestines and enter the bloodstream. In the case of butyrate, this short-chain fatty acid helps repair epithelial cells.

 

How Immune Cells Communicate Along Gut Barrier

 
Mast cells (M cells) are located within the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) inside our small intestine [6]. These cells take antigens of potential microbial threats and transport them through the epithelial cells. These cells then initiate an immune response to deal with potential threats.
 
Within our intestinal wall are also dendritic cells. These cells report back to T-cells of our adaptive immune system [7]. These communicators probe intestinal lumen in search of potential threats. That way, our immune system already has a defense before these threats get out of hand.
 
Also, our intestinal wall contains TH17 helper cells. TH17 cells stimulate epithelial cells to produce antimicrobial agents [8]. They also call for backup in the form of Immunoglobulin A (IgA).

 

IgA and Gut Bacteria

 
One of the most intricate interactions between gut bacteria and immune system cells is how Immunoglobulin A (IgA) interacts with intestinal flora. B cells within our adaptive immune system create this antibody as a response to potential pathogens.

 

IgA Influence on Stomach Bacteria

 

 
IgA can cut off danger before it begins. These immune cells can bind to food particles that cause inflammation or opportunistic microbes that may harm the microbiome [9].
 
In fact, IgA may influence microbial:
• Composition
Diversity
• Gene Expression
 
Having IgA cells present can help make your gut bacteria more robust. It can seek out growing species and slowly break them down, inhibiting their growth. The gut bacteria appreciate these checks and balances. So, they show the same respect for IgA.

 

Stomach Bacteria Influence on IgA

 
IgA is derived from plasma cells created by B cells. Gut bacteria can regulate how many of these cells are within the microbiome.
 
Furthermore, gut bacteria try to prohibit too much inflammation. Their pro-inflammatory stance helps keep IgA levels in check. This trait not only saves gut bacteria but also helps the immune system better manage its resources.
 
We all have different things that set off our gut health or immune system. Some of might have a penchant for milk but are lactose intolerant. Meanwhile, someone else is who is lactose intolerant might not care for dairy anyway.

 

How to Improve Gut Bacteria and Immune System

 
Now, add in other potential issues and tastes like legume lovers with lectin sensitivities. A family grown on pasta can develop gluten problems. The list goes on and on!
 
Fact is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. Your immune system and gut bacteria are unique. So, you need a custom approach.
 
Test your gut bacteria and get insights into your immune system with Thryve. Based on the results, we can recommend a custom probiotic targeted to provide support for the immune system. Furthermore, we can give you insights on which foods are compromising your particular immune system, and which ones will boost it up!

 

Click Here To View Resources

Resources

 

[1] Institute of Medicine (US) Food Forum. The Human Microbiome, Diet, and Health: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2013. 2, Study of the Human Microbiome. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK154091/.
 
[2] BawaganJul, Juanita, et al. “Babies Get Critical Gut Bacteria from Their Mother at Birth, Not from Placenta, Study Suggests.” Science, 31 July 2019, www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/bacteria-free-placentas-suggest-babies-pick-microbiome-birth.
 
[3] Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical and experimental immunology, 153 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), 3–6. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x.
 
[4] Andrews, C., McLean, M. H., & Durum, S. K. (2018). Cytokine Tuning of Intestinal Epithelial Function. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 1270. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.01270.
 
[5] Pott J, Hornef M. Innate immune signalling at the intestinal epithelium in homeostasis and disease. EMBO Rep. 2012;13(8):684‐698. doi:10.1038/embor.2012.96.
 
[6] Ohno H. (2016). Intestinal M cells. Journal of biochemistry, 159(2), 151–160. https://doi.org/10.1093/jb/mvv121.
 
[7] Rimoldi M, Chieppa M, Vulcano M, Allavena P, Rescigno M. Intestinal epithelial cells control dendritic cell function. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004;1029:66‐74. doi:10.1196/annals.1309.009.
 
[8] McAleer, J. P., & Kolls, J. K. (2011). Mechanisms controlling Th17 cytokine expression and host defense. Journal of leukocyte biology, 90(2), 263–270. https://doi.org/10.1189/jlb.0211099.
 
[9] Pabst, O., Slack, E. IgA and the intestinal microbiota: the importance of being specific. Mucosal Immunol 13, 12–21 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41385-019-0227-4.

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10 Best Immune-Hacking Antiviral Foods to Fight the Flu

Antiviral foods help boost your immune system so you can fight off colds, flu, viruses, and other viral attacks!
 
Every dietary decision you make can either help or harm your immune system. Each food we consume is enriched with vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins that can either boost or hinder your overall health. The difference in these nutrients is what gives some foods different benefits, including antiviral properties. Here’s a list of ten antiviral foods that will help you fight off viral attacks.
 
Top Antiviral Foods

 

What Are Antiviral Foods?

 
Antiviral foods are enriched with a litany of organic compounds that help fight off pathogens within the body. Viruses like to infiltrate healthy cells and use their membranes as a host. Here is where viral replication takes place.
 
Viral replication is when virus DNA disrupts our natural DNA production. In turn, the virus can take over the system. 
 
One analysis about how viruses infect cells explained,
 

“Once a virus gets inside a cell, it hijacks the cellular processes to produce virally encoded protein that will replicate the virus’s genetic material. Viral mechanisms are capable of translocating proteins and genetic material from the cell and assembling them into new virus particles [1].”

Biophys J
So, you want to make sure you are eating foods that not only fight off viruses but also offer support to your healthy cells. The best antiviral foods should nourish and rejuvenate compromised cells and aid in cell proliferation. With these qualities, antiviral foods can help keep your immune system strong during flu season.

 

The Best Antiviral Foods to Boost Immune System

 
There are an array of foods that have antioxidant-boosting abilities that will keep your immune system strong. However, even some of these nutritious foods have even more benefits. They’re antiviral foods! That means these food sources can fight off a viral attack. Here are the ten antiviral foods that will give you the balanced diet necessary for optimal wellness.
 
antiviral foods for gut health Thryve
 

Garlic

 
There’s a reason why garlic keeps vampires away. Things that suck that life out of you aren’t a fan of the potent aromatic compounds found in garlic. Luckily for us, these molecules make garlic one of the most delicious antiviral foods out there [2].
 
There are three primary compounds found in garlic that exhibit antiviral capabilities:
• Allicin
• Diallyl Trisulfide
• Ajoene
 
Research shows that these compounds can impede the growth of influenza A and influenza B, as well as herpes and HIV. In the case of HIV, ajoene, in particular, has proven particularly helpful. Early HIV studies suggest ajoene prevents the irregular cellular processes triggered by HIV-infected cells [3].
 
There are many garlic supplements out there. However, nothing beats raw garlic. Garlic is easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. It adds flavor to anything and builds a strong immune system. So, stock up on this spice!

 

Star Anise

 
Star anise is one of the best-kept secrets in the world of antiviral foods. It’s been used since ancient times as an herbal medicine for improving the immune function. 
 
This licorice-flavored spice is rich in shikimic acid. Shikimic acid has potent antiviral properties. In fact, it’s an active ingredient in Theraflu!This spice has a very powerful flavor. It’s ideal for broths and teas. There are many ways to use star anise, but don’t go overboard. A little can go a long way with this Chinese herb.

 

Olive Leaf and Olive Oil

 
There’s a reason why those who follow a Mediterranean Diet have a longer lifespan. They consume an abundance of natural products, whole foods, and healthy fatty acids. One of their greatest sources of these desirable health habits is the olive.
 
While olives themselves (and olive oil) have many health benefits, don’t sleep on the olive leaf. Olive leaves are one of the most abundant sources of oleuropein. Studies involving this molecule found that it shows significant effects against respiratory syntactical virus and para-influenza type 3 virus [5].
 
While olive oil has less oleuropein than olive leaf, it has a considerable amount of healthy fatty acids that repair our gut and keep our immune system strong. Up the antioxidant effects and give free radicals a scare with a delicious garlic oil infusion!

 

Ginger

 
Ginger is a staple in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s also  a tasty way to spice up your list of antiviral foods! This tangy root can bring life to any stir-fry or give your water a fizzy flavor. It also has excellent antiviral capabilities that makes this root essential for a healthy daily diet.
 
One study found that ginger helped improve the cells in both the upper respiratory tract (HEp-2 cells) and lower respiratory tract (A549 cells) [6]. The analysis noted improvements in both HEp-2 cells and A549 cells up to 27% and 12.9% respectively.
 
Furthermore, analysts noted that ginger caused cells to secrete Interferon-beta (IFN-β). IFN-β is a polypeptide that has antiviral capabilities because it regulates DNA encryption [7]. So, it can help block a viral attack.

 

Oregano Oil

 
An unsung hero in antiviral foods is oregano oil. Oregano plants are one of the most flavorful and effective antiviral herbs in the world. Extracts from this Italian herb are rich in antioxidants and other healing compounds that fight off free radicals.
 
In particular, oregano oil contains a high concentration of the following antiviral compounds:
• Carvacrol
• Thymol
• Terpinene
 
Namely, carvacrol can stop nonenveloped murine norovirus (MNV) in its tracks [8]. MNV is a precursor to noroviruses. Carvacarol achieves this by targeting the virus’ RNA. Researchers noted that antiviral effects can happen within an hour of ingesting oregano oil.
 
Oregano oil is highly abrasive on the skin. Make sure to mix it with a thicker carrier oil if you are using it as a chest rub. Excellent choices for carrier oils include coconut oil and olive oil. Be sure to add in some lemon balm for the scent of citrus fruits and an extra dose of antiviral properties!
 
Antiviral Foods for Thryve Gut Health 2 of 2

 

Spirulina

 
The sea-based superfood spirulina is one of the most versatile antiviral foods. You can add spirulina powder to a variety of superfood smoothies. If you never thought about doing so, it might be time to reconsider.
 
One study looked at the effects of spirulina on three predominant types of influenza [9]. Considerable evidence suggests that after one hour, the blue algae inhibited virus replication.
 
Researchers saw viral yields of the following types of influenza decrease by the following:
• A/WSN/33(H1N1) – 68%
• A/TW/3446/02(H3N2) – 90%
• B/TW/70555/05 – 94%
 
Many of the antiviral benefits of spirulina are attributed to its high levels of cyanovirin-N. This protein has shown promise in slowing down the progression of HIV to AIDS [10]. It’s also shown promise in blocking the progression of the herpes virus, Herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1). 
 
This plant-based food is also a great source of Vitamin E. Vitamin E not only helps fight off free radicals but it helps convert our food to energy. So, by consuming Vitamin E, we can cut down the inflammatory-causing fat tissues that might cause an adverse immune response. This preventative measure makes our body less susceptible to viral replication.

 

Shiitake Mushrooms

 
If you give a shiitake about your health, you should give shiitake mushrooms a try. In fact, shittake mushrooms are so popular that many health food stores sell it in organic teas!
 
Don’t worry about getting a fungal infection or sick from eating these fungi. Shiitake mushrooms are teeming with beta-glucans. These are sugars that have antiviral capabilities. In fact, hospitals administer beta-glucans via an IV to prevent infection post-surgery [11].
 
One study on the antiviral benefits of shiitake mushrooms found that these foods had a positive impact on the immune system. Researchers stated that compounds in shiitake mushrooms increased secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in the body [12]. They noted that this action improved gut motility, which would help with many gastro problems.
 
sIgA is an antibody. It plays a significant role in protecting the cell membrane. As we mentioned, viruses like to use the cells as hosts so they can carry out their agenda. Eating antiviral foods rich in sIgA can help prevent that attack.

 

Green Tea

 
We are big proponents of drinking tea in a healthy gut diet plan. Green tea is one of the many reasons why tea time is always on our agenda. Our tasty brew is enriched with catechins. In particular, green tea has an abundance of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
 
An analysis about this antiviral brew noted,
 

“EGCG, the most abundant catechin in green tea, was shown to minimize the infectivity of the influenza A and B virus in Madin–Darby canine kidney cells. Furthermore, EGCG and ECG inhibited the activity of viral RNA (ribonucleic acid), which suppressed virus propagation [13].”

Molecules.
Furthermore, ECGC fights off the following viral families:
• Flaviviridae
• Retroviridae
• Hepadnaviridae
• Herpesviridae
• Adenoviridae
• Orthomyxoviridae
• Picornavirida
 
Suffice to say, if you are showing some symptoms of the flu, get the tea flowing. Add some star anise to your green tea. If not, try the next item on our list of top antiviral foods.

 

Elderberries

 
Elderberries are finally getting the credit they deserve in the world of flu prevention. These things got more Vitamin C than the ever-popular orange! Compounds in this superfruit bind onto the little spikes found on virus proteins. As a result, these viruses are unable to leech onto healthy cells and overtake the system.
 
One study administered treatment to 60 influenza patients [14]. Half received elderberry syrup, while the other group had a placebo. Those who consumed elderberry felt better on an average of four days sooner than their counterparts.
 
It should be noted that elderberries are one of the best foods for flu and preventative measures against viral attacks. In fact, many Vitamin C supplements contain elderberry. However, if you have COVID-19, Dr. Weil suggests to stop using this immune booster. He noted that cases of the coronavirus may experience an adverse immune response from elderberry.

 

Yogurt

 
One of the best antiviral foods is probiotics. Probiotics in yogurt help set up our gut to be the first line of defense against viral infection. Filling your gut biome with good bacteria has shown to help fight off the growth of enterovirus (EV) 71 up to 45% [15]. 
 
Many healthy adults start their day off right with a yummy yogurt bowl. For extra gut-healing power, make sure you get yogurt fortified with Vitamin D. May people have low levels of Vitamin D3, which is essential for many metabolic functions that support our immune system.
 
Speaking of, add in some berries for free radical protection. Lastly, top off with protein-rich sunflower seeds to build healthy cells throughout the GI tract. 
 
One analysis noted common probiotic species helped alleviate symptoms of the flu, such as:
• Lactobacillus plantarum
• Bifidobacterium bifidum
 
Both of these stomach bacteria are also common recommendations in the Thryve Gut Health Program. That’s why many of our custom probiotics supplements contain these strains. Find out if your gut needs this support against a viral attack. Get your gut tested today!

 

How to Incorporate Antiviral Foods Into A Diet

 
So many antiviral foods, so little time? The most challenging aspect of switching up your diet habits is knowing where to begin. That’s where Thryve Inside can help.
 
Our gut health program offers targeted insights into your dietary choices. By testing your gut biome, we get a snapshot on everything causing your system an immune response. Based on the results, we can determine your risk of developing autoimmunity and how well your metabolism functions.
 
Get insights on your health like never before!
 
To better your chances of a passing grade, the Thryve Inside Gut Health Program offers you recommendations on foods you should eat, and which ones to avoid.

 

thryve gut health food recommendations

Get personalized recommendations, including recipes featuring antiviral foods!

Combine these insights with our recipes full of antiviral foods, and your immune system will be strong enough to take-on flu season head-on!

 

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Resources

 

[1] Cohen F. S. (2016). How Viruses Invade Cells. Biophysical journal, 110(5), 1028–1032. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2016.02.006
 
[2] Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.
 
[3] Tatarintsev, A V, et al. “The Ajoene Blockade of Integrin-Dependent Processes in an HIV-Infected Cell System.” Vestnik Rossiiskoi Akademii Meditsinskikh Nauk, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1992, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1284227.
 
[4] Bochkov, D. V., Sysolyatin, S. V., Kalashnikov, A. I., & Surmacheva, I. A. (2012). Shikimic acid: review of its analytical, isolation, and purification techniques from plant and microbial sources. Journal of chemical biology, 5(1), 5–17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12154-011-0064-8.
 
[5] Omar S. H. (2010). Oleuropein in olive and its pharmacological effects. Scientia pharmaceutica, 78(2), 133–154. https://doi.org/10.3797/scipharm.0912-18.
 
[6] Chang, Jung San, et al. “Fresh Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Has Anti-Viral Activity against Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Human Respiratory Tract Cell Lines.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Jan. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23123794.
 
[7] Markowitz, Clyde E. “Interferon-Beta: Mechanism of Action and Dosing Issues.” Neurology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 12 June 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17562848.
 
[8] Gilling, D H, et al. “Antiviral Efficacy and Mechanisms of Action of Oregano Essential Oil and Its Primary Component Carvacrol against Murine Norovirus.” Journal of Applied Microbiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24779581.
 
[9] Chen, Y. H., Chang, G. K., Kuo, S. M., Huang, S. Y., Hu, I. C., Lo, Y. L., & Shih, S. R. (2016). Well-tolerated Spirulina extract inhibits influenza virus replication and reduces virus-induced mortality. Scientific reports, 6, 24253. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep24253.
 
[10] Tsai, Che-Chung, et al. “Cyanovirin-N Inhibits AIDS Virus Infections in Vaginal Transmission Models.” AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15000694.
 
[11] Rahar, S., Swami, G., Nagpal, N., Nagpal, M. A., & Singh, G. S. (2011). Preparation, characterization, and biological properties of β-glucans. Journal of advanced pharmaceutical technology & research, 2(2), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.4103/2231-4040.82953.
 
[12] Dai, Xiaoshuang, et al. “Consuming Lentinula Edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866155.
 
[13] Furushima, D., Ide, K., & Yamada, H. (2018). Effect of Tea Catechins on Influenza Infection and the Common Cold with a Focus on Epidemiological/Clinical Studies. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(7), 1795. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23071795.
 
[14] Zakay-Rones, Z, et al. “Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections.” The Journal of International Medical Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016.
 
[15] Choi, Hw-Jung, et al. “Antiviral Activity of Yogurt against Enterovirus 71 in Vero Cells.” Food Science and Biotechnology, The Korean Society of Food Science and Technology, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10068-010-0042-x.
 

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Coronavirus: Superbug FAQ About This Respiratory Virus

So far, over 75,100 people in 25 countries have contracted the novel coronavirus, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) [1]. Over 2,000 have died. Cruise ships have been quarantined, and flight bans have been enacted in hopes of stopping the spread of coronavirus infection. Still, over 300 cases of this superbug have popped up in the United States. What are coronavirus symptoms, and how does it compare to other coronaviruses, such as the MERS virus? Here’s everything you need to know about the latest human coronavirus.

 

What is Coronavirus?

 
The term “coronavirus” might be a new one for you. However, you’re a lot more familiar with it than you realize. Seven known coronaviruses can cause a respiratory virus in humans. In fact, four of these seven are some of the 200-plus viruses that may cause the common cold [2].
 
One analysis about the coronavirus outbreak stated,
 

“Human coronaviruses probably account for 5 to 10 percent of all acute upper respiratory tract infections in adults, with outbreaks during which 25 to 35 percent of respiratory infections can be attributed to a single species [3].”

Kenneth McIntosh, MD
You’ve probably even heard about coronavirus infection on the news in the past. They were just viral infections that went by different names.
 
coronavirus
Most notably, there was the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS coronavirus) outbreak of 2003.
 
The latest respiratory virus is generically called “the coronavirus” by news outlets. Newscasters are just simplifying a rather complex explanation that we’re about to get into.
 
When they say, “the coronavirus,” anchors are referring to the latest of many viruses that share similar qualities. So close, that the latest human coronavirus has 96% the same RNA as past coronoavirus outbreaks. The genetic makeup for each respiratory virus is just different enough to make them impossible to treat with another coronavirus vaccine.

 

Types of Coronavirus

 
A respiratory virus classified as a coronavirus has the longest genome of any RNA virus. It consists of over 30,000 letters in its genetic makeup.
 
Each coronavirus consists of four primary parts:
 
coronavirus spike proteins
• Nucleocapsid – Protein That Makes Virus Shell
• Envelope – Combo of Viral Glycoproteins and Host Proteins That Envelope Nucleocapsid
• Membrane- Infected Cell
• Spike – Crown-Shaped Proteins Attach to Infected Cell
 
The crown-shaped proteins are a distinct characteristic of the coronavirus. In fact, the protein’s resemblance to royalty headwear is how this virus got the “corona” name.
 
There are eight known coronaviruses that can cause a coronavirus infection in humans:
• Human Coronavirus 229E
• Human Coronavirus NL63
• Human Coronavirus OC43
• Human Coronavirus HKU1
• Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV, or MERS Virus)
• Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV, or SARS Coronavirus)
• Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
 
The first four a pretty common. Normal flu-like coronavirus symptoms in humans occur and our immune systems and medications help fight them off. However, some of these can mutate into more resistant viruses. That’s the case with the last three.
 
The MERS virus evolved from MERS-CoV. This superbug has claimed almost 3,000 lives to date. [4]. Meanwhile, SARS was a superbug that developed from SARS-CoV. As we now know, COVID-19 came from SARS-CoV-2 [5].

 

What is the Novel Coronavirus?

 
coronavirus prevention
The latest superbug was detected in Wuhan, China by Dr. Liu Zhiming. He has since unfortunately passed away from a coronavirus infection.
 
Initially, this was named Novel Coronavirus 2019 (nCoV-2019). Once scientists were able to trace the RNA sequence back to past pandemics, like the SARS virus, it became an official coronavirus.
 
Human coronavirus can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days to develop signs of coronavirus. Currently, there is no coronavirus vaccine for this novel coronavirus.

 

 

Novel Coronavirus Symptoms

 
Coronavirus symptoms in humans are similar to that of a common cold or influenza [7].
 
Signs of coronavirus include:
 
coronavirus symptoms in humans
Typical flu symptoms appear in
coronavirus patients
• Cough
• Sore Throat
• Fever
• Fatigue
• Body Pains
• Temperature Changes
• Headache
• Runny Nose
 
Depending on how strong your immune system is, you may feel worse coronavirus symptoms.
 
Severe coronavirus symptoms in humans include:
• Chest Pain/Tightness
• Mucous Formation
• Trouble Breathing
• Fever
• Pneumonia
 
Many of these symptoms overlap with other respiratory virus signs. For instance, you might think you are showing coronavirus symptoms but really have a case of parainfluenza or RSV. If you believe you have coronavirus, it’s imperative you seek medical help immediately.

 

How Did We Get Coronavirus in the First Place?

 
Most viruses come from animals. As humans, our immune system anticipates viral infections. Therefore, the immune system produces antibodies that allow us to feel mild symptoms or none at all. When we cause new pathogens to enter our system, that’s where things can go wrong.
 
Human coronavirus from animals
Chart of past viral infections from animals to humans
There are many microbes that humans and animals pass back and forth that are unique to that particular mammal. Most of the time, these interactions cause no issues. In fact, having pets can improve your gut health.
 
Unfortunately, there are times where viruses win. Humans can develop a really contagious condition, such as Respiratory Syntactical Virus (RSV). Painful and annoying, yes. However, RSV can be a bit more manageable than other conditions. Then there are worst-case scenarios. That’s when cases like the MERS virus and SARS coronavirus hit.

 

Animal to Human Coronavirus Infection

 
The origins of these viruses came from bats. In fact, many viral outbreaks start with bats infecting other animals that, in turn, contaminated us. We can confirm that with the MERS virus and SARS coronavirus. Whereas, the jury is still out with Ebola.
 
bats coronavirus outbreak
Past instances of animal to human coronavirus include:
• SARS Coronavirus: Asian Palm Civet
• Ebola: Bats to Gorillas and Chimpanzees
• Nipah: Pigs
• Hendra: Horses
• Marburg: African Green Monkeys
 
While the average person doesn’t interact with these animals, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Scarily, there also been cases of coronavirus cats in the past, too.
 
Unfortunately, this virus also gets spread from human-to-human. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s discuss how the coronavirus causes a respiratory virus.

 

How Does Coronavirus Cause Illness?

 
parainfluenza
A flu virus in action
Like all viral infections, coronaviruses reproduce within healthy cells. They infect the cytoplasm. Cytoplasm is a fluid-like substance that gives the cell structure and protects the nucleus.
 
Inevitably, the virus takes over the cytoplasm, causing the cell to act irregularly. When this happens, it causes coronavirus symptoms in humans that are similar to any other respiratory virus. However, there is no known coronavirus vaccine for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. So, this may post long-term problems.
 
Our immune system does not take kindly to intruders. It sparks inflammation, which causes even more distress throughout the system. In fact, studies even confirm this fear in cases of coronavirus infection.
 
A recent study was conducted with bats confirmed,
 

“Some bats — including those known to be the original source of human infections — have been shown to host immune systems that are perpetually primed to mount defenses against viruses. Viral infection in these bats leads to a swift response that walls the virus out of cells. While this may protect the bats from getting infected with high viral loads, it encourages these viruses to reproduce more quickly within a host before a defense can be mounted [6].”

Science Daily
Bats have an extremely high metabolic rate. That’s because they’re busy flying at fast paces. Scientists reason that’s why they’re the common facilitator of a viral mutation. With that said, it also shows how smart and intricate a virus can be, and why it’s so hard to create a coronavirus vaccine.

 

How to Get Human Coronavirus?

 
The most common transmission of the coronavirus is through humans. It’s passed through the air, our pores, and human contact.
 
people kissing
Swapping coronavirus?
You can get human coronavirus from:
• Touching Unwashed Surfaces
Breathing Air Infected By Sneezing and Coughing
• Kissing, Hugging, and Other Intimate Contact
• Contact with Feces
 
Much like parainfluenza and the cold, you are more likely to contract the novel coronavirus during the winter. Many hypothesize it’s because many of us stay indoors and in tight quarters during this time of the year.
 
Not to mention, viruses enjoy the colder weather. We’re warm-blooded creatures. So, having lower temperatures enable them to find the balance necessary to thrive [8]. Plus, they have their envelope to keep them warm!

 

What to Do If You Show Signs of Coronavirus?

 
Getting help for coronavirus symptoms should be done immediately, especially if you recently traveled. Signs of coronavirus will get worse, and the respiratory virus will become highly contagious.
 
coronavirus infection
Take precaution and being proactive
Left untreated, you run the risk of this developing into a fatal respiratory virus. Not to mention, your symptoms may spread the disease to someone with a compromised immune system. They might die, too. So, please don’t take coronavirus symptoms lightly.
 
Go to your doctor. Share your coronavirus symptoms and discuss your medical history. From there, they may choose to take blood and run some lab tests.
 
In the meantime, you should take over-the-counter medications to treat the coronavirus symptoms, such as headaches and body pain. There is no current novel coronavirus vaccine. So, you need to rest up and allow your body to heal.

 

Am I At High Risk for Coronavirus?

 
A respiratory virus is a reason to be on alert. However, you shouldn’t go into deep panic mode just yet. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came up with a chart to determine the risk factor of contracting human coronavirus [9].
 
You have a high-risk of coronavirus infection if you:
 
• Live with Someone Who Has the Novel Coronavirus
• Intimate Partner or Friend with Someone Who Has Human Coronavirus
• Recently Traveled from Hubei Province, China
 
Medium risks of developing coronavirus symptoms include:
 
• Close Contact with Someone Who Has COVID-19, Without Touch
• Sitting Within 2 Seats in Any Direction of a Person with Human Coronavirus on a Plane
• Living With Someone Who Has the Novel Coronavirus, But Using Sanitary Precautions
• Travel from mainland China outside Hubei Province
Low risks of showing coronavirus symptoms in humans include:
• Being in Same Room as Someone with Human Coronavirus, But No Contact
• On a Plane with Over Two Rows Difference from Person with Respiratory Virus
 
No matter where you are on this list, there’s no harm in going to a doctor. If you think there’s a gray area, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

How to Prevent Coronavirus

 
There is no novel coronavirus vaccine. So, we must be vigilant in preventative care. Take many of the same precautions you would during flu season.
 
Try to fight coronavirus symptoms by:
Stay here until you’re better
• Covering Mouth When Coughing and Sneezing
• Disinfecting Surfaces
• Washing Hands Regularly
• Delaying Travel Until Spring
Taking Probiotics to Support Immune System
• Visiting a Doctor
• Re-booking Your Cruise
• Throw Away Tissues
• Clean Your Trash Can
Stay at Home When Sick
• Avoid Close Contact with Others if Showing Coronavirus Symptoms
 
If you live in an area where coronavirus has been detected, try laying low. While early, there are signs of the respiratory virus slowing down in China [10]. Plus, viruses aren’t a fan of the spring. So, if everyone takes precaution, we can hopefully curb the casualties.

 

What Happens If You Have Coronavirus?

 
coronavirus quarantine
The human coronavirus is highly contagious. Many people who have traveled abroad to China or been on cruises have faced quarantine. It can take up to two weeks to be released. That’s because symptoms can take up to 14 days to manifest.
 
If you bounce back from flu-like symptoms sooner, you may be released. It’s all dependent on the case and the professional opinion of a medical specialist.

 

 

 

Will There Be a Coronavirus Vaccine?

 
Scientists are scrambling to find a coronavirus vaccine. Unfortunately, they’ve come up short so far. However, there is a lot of hope.
 
As we mentioned, this human coronavirus is the virus with the longest RNA sequence. That means there’s room for a lot of errors in the genetic code. We need to find that mistake. Then the scientists can finally find the novel coronavirus vaccine.

 

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Resources

 

[1] “Coronavirus Live Updates: Disease Roughly 20 Times Deadlier Than Seasonal Flu.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/02/18/world/asia/china-coronavirus.html.
 
[2] “Coronavirus.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20479963?page=0&citems=10.
 
[3] McIntosh, MD, Kenneth. “Coronaviruses.” UpToDate, 18 Feb. 2020, www.uptodate.com/contents/coronaviruses.
 
[4] “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 23 Jan. 2020, www.who.int/emergencies/mers-cov/en/.
 
[5] “CDC Grows SARS-CoV-2, the Virus That Causes COVID-19, in Cell Culture.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/grows-virus-cell-culture.html.
 
[6] University of California – Berkeley. “Coronavirus Outbreak Raises Question: Why Are Bat Viruses so Deadly?” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 10 Feb. 2020, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200210144854.htm.
 
[7] “Coronavirus Infections | Coronavirus.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Feb. 2020, medlineplus.gov/coronavirusinfections.html.
 
[8] Larson, Jennifer. “Why Flu Season Spikes in the Fall and Winter.” Insider, Insider, 22 Nov. 2019, www.insider.com/when-is-flu-season.
 
[9] “Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposure in Travel-Associated or Community Settings.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html.
 
[10] Stankiewicz, Kevin. “It’s Too Early to Tell Whether the Coronavirus Is Actually Slowing in China, NIH Doctor Says.” CNBC, CNBC, 18 Feb. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/02/18/it-is-too-early-to-say-if-coronavirus-is-slowing-in-china-nih-doctor.html.
 

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