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An Explanation of How Coronavirus Damages Your Body

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2020

This morning Kurzgesagt released their video about COVID-19 that they’ve been working on for a week, and it is excellent, particularly the first part where they explain exactly what the SARS-CoV-2 virus does to a human body and why it can be so dangerous. I hadn’t heard that described before, especially in such relatively simple terms.

The virus has not caused too much damage yet, but corona is now going to release a real beast on you: your own immune system. The immune system, while there to protect you, can actually be pretty dangerous to yourself and needs tight regulation. And as immune cells pour into the lungs to fight the virus, corona infects some of them and creates confusion. Cells have neither ears nor eyes — they communicate mostly via tiny information proteins called cytokines — nearly every important immune reaction is controlled by them. Corona causes infected immune cells to overreact and yell bloody murder. In a sense, it puts the immune system into a fighting frenzy and sends way more soldiers than it should, wasting its resources and causing damage.

Kurzgesagt always provides a list of scientific sources used to produce their videos, and the one for this video is particularly extensive and they are going to keep it updated.

Update: For more information on the coronavirus itself, SARS-CoV-2, see Ed Yong’s piece in the Atlantic and How the Coronavirus Could Take Over Your Body (Before You Ever Feel It) from New York magazine.