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The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Global Health Crisis
Physiological Genomics  (IF3.107),  Pub Date : 2020-09-29, DOI: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00089.2020
Casey A. Pollard, Michael P. Morran, Andrea L. Nestor-Kalinoski

The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 was identified as the causative agent for a series of atypical respiratory diseases in the Hubei Province of Wuhan, China in December of 2019. The disease SARS-CoV-2, termed COVID-19, was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. SARS-CoV-2 contains a single stranded, positive-sense RNA genome surrounded by an extracellular membrane containing a series of spike glycoproteins resembling a crown. COVID-19 infection results in diverse symptoms and morbidity depending on individual genetics, ethnicity, age and geographic location. In severe cases, COVID-19 pathophysiology includes destruction of lung epithelial cells, thrombosis, hypercoagulation, and vascular leak leading to sepsis. These events lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and subsequent pulmonary fibrosis in patients. COVID-19 risk factors include cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes, which are highly prevalent in the United States. This population has up-regulation of the angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor, which is exploited by COVID-19 as the route of entry and infection. Viral envelope proteins bind to and degrade ACE2 receptors, thus preventing normal ACE2 function. COVID-19 infection causes imbalances in ACE2 and induces an inflammatory immune response, known as a cytokine storm, both of which amplify comorbidities within the host. Herein, we discuss the genetics, pathogenesis, and possible therapeutics of COVID-19 infection along with secondary complications associated with disease progression, including ARDS and pulmonary fibrosis. Understanding the mechanisms of COVID-19 infection will allow the development of vaccines or other novel therapeutic approaches to prevent transmission or reduce the severity of infection.