Coronavirus enters via two cells in the nose, researchers find
Share article:
Share article:

Coronavirus enters via two cells in the nose, researchers find

© Nicolas Maeterlinck Belga

Two specific cells in the nose are likely to be the entry points for the coronavirus to infect the body, a Dutch research project has suggested.

The Human Cell Atlas Lung project is led by immunologist Martijn Nawijn and lung specialist Maarten van den Berge, both of the university medical centre in Groningen. Together with researchers from Britain and France, they have identified goblet cells and ciliated cells as the likely entry points.

The coronavirus infects the respiratory tract, causing coughing, leading to breathing problems and ending in the worst cases in pneumonia leading to death.

Scientists know that the infection is spread via droplets produced by coughing and sneezing, which can either be inhaled directly or picked up from surfaced and introduced to the face by touching with contaminated hands.

But while scientists know that the virus infects the body in a similar way to the coronavirus that caused the SARS epidemic in 2003, no-one has yet been able to pinpoint exactly where it enters the newly infected host.

The key lay in two proteins used by the virus to enter the body. The team tested data from the Human Cell Atlas for 20 different kinds of tissue taken from people who were not infected, including cells from the lung, nasal cavity, eye, gut, heart, kidney and liver. They were looking for signs of the two entry proteins released when the virus enters the cell, then when it proceeds to multiply.

And while they found them in a number of different body cells, the most promising were the goblet cells in the nose, which produce mucus that helps warm and dampen the air we breathe, and the ciliated cells, also in the nose, which contain tiny hairs which keep foreign matter like dust particles from entering the airways.

This is the first time these particular cells in the nose have been associated with COVID-19,” said Dr Nawijn. “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. 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.”

The cells were also found in the cornea of the eye, suggesting that the wearing of a common surgical face mask does not offer full protection from the virus.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Experts call for more widespread use of masks as figures rise
As coronavirus figures continue to rise, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has suggested that people return to wearing masks when indoors with ...
Belgium wants to recover €420 million in wrongfully paid out coronavirus aid
The Belgian State intends to recover €420 million of unduly paid Covid-19 aid, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. The electronic Council of ...
Why the fight for transgender rights is polarising Europe 
Year after year, Samuel De Schepper would ask Santa Claus to bring him a penis for Christmas. Born female and attending an all girl’s Catholic ...
New offshore wind farm officially opened
Despite being operational since the end of 2020, the SeaMade offshore wind farm was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Alexander ...
Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, ...
Belgium holds on to top spot in FIFA rankings despite recent losses
Once again, Belgium's Red Devils have held onto their position at the top of the world football rankings, according to an update released by the ...
Proximus pushes for high-speed internet in Brussels and Wallonia
Fifteen municipalities in Wallonia should soon have access to high-speed internet through the rollout of fibre optics in the region, telecoms giant ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders
On Thursday, Barry Callebaut – the largest global chocolate processor and manufacturer – opened the world's largest chocolate warehouse in Lokeren, ...
Belgium in Brief: Equal Opportunity To Dance
There's a phrase where I'm from, more often said in jest nowadays, but it came to my mind this morning: "Ye dancin'?" (Are you dancing?), one ...
Farmer discovers cocaine in banana boxes bought in Brussels
A Flemish farmer who purchased boxes of bananas at the market in Brussels on Tuesday came home to discover large amounts of cocaine packed among the ...
Changes to speed cameras increase likelihood of a ticket
Changes to the way speed cameras work in Flanders and Wallonia will increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket when cars pass them above the ...