Covid-19 has been spreading among the world population since 2020, but it is still a virus little known by the scientific community. The effects and symptoms, even well documented, generate mysteries such as cases of long-term covid, in which the person spends months feeling the damage caused by the initial infection.
Scientists are now studying the possibility of the coronavirus being “hidden” in people’s bodies and manifesting itself at specific periods, as with herpes types 1 and 2, or HIV, for example. In these cases, the defense cells stop working as expected and the infection reappears, causing health problems to a greater or lesser degree.
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It is necessary to make two distinctions in these cases to understand the potential of each disease: DNA viruses with genetic material that is inside the nucleus of human cells and RNA viruses. DNA is composed of two rows of genetic information, with a more complex formation and difficult to combat when presented in the form of a virus. In the case of RNA viruses, the genetic information is simpler and easier for the organism to remove.
Some diseases, such as HIV, manage to make a kind of mutation from the RNA virus to DNA and they are incorporated into the human genome, hiding for years and escaping the effectiveness of drugs. In the worst case, the person stops taking these inhibitory drugs and the disease returns in full force.
Can the coronavirus be ‘hidden’ in the body?
Scientists consulted by the BBC believe that the coronavirus will hardly have this ability to develop mechanisms to hide in the human body. And, according to molecular biologist Carlos Menck, from the Department of Microbiology at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of São Paulo (ICB-USP), Sars-CoV-2 is an RNA virus, which does not have a reverse transcriptase enzyme, as HIV, so it does not integrate into the human genome.
In cases of long covid, in which people follow weeks, even months, feeling accentuated symptoms of the infection – such as headaches, fatigue, loss of smell, among others – the phenomenon can be explained as follows: the virus wreaks havoc on first days of the inflammatory process, and in some immune systems this invasion tends to be more harmful, demanding more from the immune system.
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