Purpose: The coronavirus outbreak emerged as a severe pandemic, claiming more than 0.8 million lives across the world and raised a major global health concern. We survey the history and mechanism of coronaviruses, and the structural characteristics of the spike protein and its key residues responsible for human transmissions. Methods: We have carried out a systematic review to summarize the origin, transmission and etiology of COVID-19. The structural analysis of the spike protein and its disordered residues explains the mechanism of the viral transmission. A meta-data analysis of the therapeutic compounds targeting the SARS-CoV-2 is also included. Results: Coronaviruses can cross the species barrier and infect humans with unexpected consequences for public health. The transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection is higher compared to that of the closely related SARS-CoV infections. In SARS-CoV-2 infection, intrinsically disordered regions are observed at the interface of the spike protein and ACE2 receptor, providing a shape complementarity to the complex. The key residues of the spike protein have stronger binding affinity with ACE2. These can be probable reasons for the higher transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2. In addition, we have also discussed the therapeutic compounds and the vaccines to target SARS-CoV-2, which can help researchers to develop effective drugs/vaccines for COVID-19. Summary: The overall history and mechanism of entry of SARS-CoV-2 along with structural study of spike-ACE2 complex provide insights to understand disease pathogenesis and development of vaccines and drugs. © 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.