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Two more coronaviruses may infect people

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  • Two more coronaviruses may infect people

    Science 28 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6545, pp. 893

    Anthony King
    DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6545.893

    Science's COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation

    Coronaviruses, already notorious for spilling over into people from various animals and causing new diseases—most catastrophically, COVID-19—may jump into humans even more often than researchers suspected.

    Last week, an international collaboration that went looking for known or novel viruses in pneumonia patients in Malaysia reported that in eight children, they found signs of a coronavirus that may have originated in dogs. Earlier this year another group reported a coronavirus that appears to have jumped from pigs to several children in Haiti. There's no sign so far that either virus can spread from person to person—as the spark of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, readily does—or definitive evidence that they cause human illness. But the discoveries, which could increase the number of coronaviruses known to infect people from seven to nine, underscore the threat posed by this viral family.

    Malaysian researchers originally partnered with a group at Duke University to study 301 adults and children hospitalized with pneumonia in 2017–18. The eight children with signs of the coronavirus were mainly living in traditional longhouses or villages on Borneo, where they likely had frequent exposure to domestic animals and jungle wildlife. Standard hospital diagnostics for pneumonia or other respiratory illness would not have detected nonhuman coronaviruses, but the Duke team, led by virologist Gregory Gray, had developed a genetic test for conserved coronavirus sequences.

    The researchers screened nasopharyngeal samples—secretions and cells swabbed from the upper part of the throat in each patient—and in the children found gene sequences suggesting a novel canine coronavirus. Collaborators from Ohio State University (OSU), Wooster, then cultured virus from one of the children's samples and sequenced its whole genome. The finding, reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases, is the first report indicating a canine-like coronavirus can replicate in people, and further studies will need to confirm the ability. ...