However, the subtle genetic differences translate to significant differences in how readily a coronavirus infects people and how it makes them sick. SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (pink dots) on a dying cell. The genetic material instructs the cell to make around 30 different parts of the virus, allowing the virus to reproduce. An illustration of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein shown from the side (left) and top. The research community learned about structures of the virus spike protein and the ACE2 protein with part of the spike protein attached just a little over a month after the genetic sequence became available.