What is a coronavirus?

It is from their crown of proteins, observable by electron microscopy, that comes the name of coronaviruses (CoV), a huge family of viruses, some of which infect different animals, other humans. If they are usually mild, causing colds that heal spontaneously, it sometimes happens that they acquire new properties that we would do well …

Until 2002, coronaviruses were seen as a problem only for immunocompromised people and infants, who could develop respiratory complications such as pneumonia if infected. For the others, in the worst case, it was paracetamol and handkerchiefs! And then there was Sars-CoV, a new coronavirus that appeared in China, which has not only acquired the superpower to be transmitted from animals to humans and then from humans to humans but also to trigger acute respiratory distress or even death of infected people. In 2012, belote with Mers-CoV, this time appeared in Saudi Arabia.

A third aggressive coronavirus transmissible to humans emerged in China in mid-December 2019. It is a close cousin of Sars-CoV, called Sars-CoV2. The illness it causes is called Covid-19. To date, there are still many unknowns about the biology of this virus, and there is still no specific treatment for patients with Covid-19. But research is mobilized to accelerate the production of knowledge, of solutions to slow the spread of the current epidemic and, obviously, of treatments.

Thus, at Inserm, the REACTing consortium (REsearch and ACTion targeting emerging infectious diseases) has been hard at work since the beginning of the epidemic. Twenty specific research projects have been launched with the support of the Ministry of Solidarity and Health and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. They relate to themes as diverse as modeling the epidemic, seeking treatment or prevention.

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