Under the microscope, a coronavirus is a sphere enveloped with spiky protrusions, like a thorny crown. These RNA viruses know how to take advantage of necessary cell reactions that allow them to replicate and infect healthy cells. They mostly attack the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, and their sneaky movements make it hard to synthesize a vaccine or cure. There are currently six human coronaviruses that could hold the keys to understanding other ailments.


1. 229E and OC43

The common cold is, arguably, the oldest human ailment. It turns out that coronaviruses 229E and OC43 are responsible for approximately six and 20 percent of common colds, respectively. Scientists are still trying to understand how these coronaviruses can slip through the regular immune defenses, as these are two of the most abundant types. Most of the time, they resolve themselves, but in rare cases, individuals with clear medical histories can develop severe, life-threatening respiratory infections that require intubation.

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