This Is How Coronavirus Will Most Likely Enter Your Body, Study Finds

Research from the University of North Carolina provides insight into how the COVID contagion can infect you.

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How people actually contract the coronavirus has been somewhat of a point of contention since the pandemic began in March. And the debate continues to rage on about the possibilities of contracting the coronavirus via lingering aerosols and contact with contaminated surfaces. But what we do know for sure is that the virus is often transmitted through close contact with respiratory droplets expelled by an individual with COVID-19. Now, thanks to a recent study, we know another key piece of information: The coronavirus most commonly enters your body through your nose.

In a June study published in the journal Cell, researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of Medicine conducted a series of lab tests in an effort to better understand the progression of COVID-19 infection and how the disease makes its way into the lungs. Based on the results, the scientists found that coronavirus infects the nasal cavity to a far greater degree than it does anywhere else in the respiratory tract, like the throat.

Man taking a deep breath with his eyes closed at his deak
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The study found that the level of infectivity was much higher in cells that lined the nasal passages than in cells located in the throat, bronchia, and lungs. The scientists believe this to be the case because they discovered that the surface receptor that the virus uses as its way of infecting cells, known as ACE2, was more prevalent in cells in the nasal passages than it was in cells found in lower parts of the respiratory tract.

Additional findings confirmed that in several people who died as a result of a severe lung infection caused by coronavirus, the infection appeared to have originated in the nasal airways.

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According to the study authors, the results further bolster the importance of wearing masks that cover your mouth and nose as a method for limiting transmission of the virus. "If the nose is the dominant initial site from which lung infections are seeded, then the widespread use of masks to protect the nasal passages, as well as any therapeutic strategies that reduce virus in the nose, such as nasal irrigation or antiviral nasal sprays, could be beneficial," Richard Boucher, MD, co-author of the study and director of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine, told UNC Health. And for more on mask use, check out Here's How Long You'll Have to Wear a Face Mask, Experts Say.

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