Scientists are concerned that a recently discovered coronavirus could emerge to cause outbreaks in humans.
The virus, porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), was first identified in in 2012 in Chinese pigs and later caused an outbreak of diarrhea in pigs in Ohio, according to a news release. The disease is potentially fatal.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers from The Ohio State University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands reported that PDCoV is capable of infecting human, cat and chicken cells in a lab.
By showing — for the first time — that the virus could bind to the receptor in human cells, the researchers said they demonstrated its ability for cross-species transmission.
“From that point, it’s just a matter of whether it can replicate within the cells and cause disease in those animals and humans,” Scott Kenney, PhD, assistant professor and researcher in The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said in the release.
Scientists are concerned about the potential of porcine deltacoronavirus to infect humans.
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Coronaviruses are a frequent cause of mild or moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses in humans and occasionally cause more serious lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia or bronchitis, according to the CDC. Two coronaviruses —SARS and MERS — have emerged from animal hosts this century to cause deadly outbreaks in humans.
PDCoV is a Deltacoronavirus — one of the four main subgroups of coronaviruses — and is most closely related to a sparrow coronavirus. Kenney and colleagues said all previously identified members of the Deltacoronavirus genus have been detected in birds, suggesting that birds are viruses’ natural host.
“We’re very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans,” co-author Linda Saif, PhD, distinguished university professor of preventive medicine in The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said in the release.
Saif said a coming study will look for antibodies in the blood to determine if PDCoV has already infected people.
“We now know for sure that porcine deltacoronavirus can bind to and enter cells of humans and birds,” she said. “Our next step is to look at susceptibility — can sick pigs transmit their virus to chickens, or vice versa, and to humans?” – by Gerard Gallagher
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.