Malaysia—Scientists have reported a new type of coronavirus that is thought to be able to infect humans. According to a recent publication in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, a team of researchers led by scientists at Duke University found a new virus that is thought to be the first canine coronavirus isolated in a human patient.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr.Gregory Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University’s Global Health Institute, set out to understand more about coronaviruses. In particular, Gray wanted to see if other, unknown coronaviruses may be infecting people.
After examining current COVID-19 tests, Gray challenged a graduate student, Leshan Xiu, to develop a new type of test that could not only detect COVID-19, but also other coronaviruses, including those that have not been discovered yet.
Xiu did just that, and the team quickly began using the device to examine 301 archived cases of pneumonia and were able to detect a type of coronavirus which was thought to stem from canines.
At least eight documented cases out of the 301 (2.7%) tests showed the presence of the new virus. All of the cases have been reported in Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia. Scientists were able to examine eight cases of children who were hospitalized with pneumonia in 2018 and found that they had contracted the infection from dogs.
If confirmed as a pathogen, the new coronavirus would become the eighth known type of coronavirus that can spread from animals to humans.
“There are probably multiple canine coronaviruses circulating and spilling over into humans that we don’t know about,” Gray said. Sarawak could be a rich place to detect them, he said, since it’s an equatorial area with rich biodiversity.
Coronaviruses, the most notable of which being SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), are a large group of viruses that cause diseases in both animals and humans. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, coronaviruses often circulate among camels, cats, and bats, and can sometimes evolve and infect people. These types of viruses are named for the spikes found on their surfaces, which form in crown-like structures.
The first documented case of a coronavirus infecting a human was in the mid-1960s by a research unit in the United Kingdom, where they described the pathogen as “virtually unrelated to any other known virus of the human respiratory tract.”
Over the last two decades, new coronaviruses that spread from animals to humans have seemingly cropped up across the globe. In 2002, an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), which was spread from civets to humans emerged from southern China. Later, in 2012, a new type of coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV, was first detected in Saudi Arabia, and was found to have spread from camels to humans.
New tests such as the one created by Xiu and the researchers at Duke can help detect new coronaviruses, and could potentially stop future outbreaks of infectious diseases. For now, it is still too early to call the virus a true human pathogen.
“These pathogens don’t just cause a pandemic overnight,” Gray said. “It takes many years for them to adapt to the human immune system and cause infection, and then to become efficient in human-to-human transmission. We need to look for these pathogens and detect them early.”
What Questions About COVID-19 do you Have?
Ask away in the comments section below!
What Covid-19 topics should we cover next?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
Are you on Facebook?