US study finds new canine coronavirus in past patients in Sarawak

KUCHING (May 21): A United States study has apparently found a new canine coronavirus in patients hospitalised with pneumonia in Sarawak from 2017 to 2018.

Malaysia Kini reported that the research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) yesterday showed the coronavirus is believed to be in the early stages of making the jump from animal hosts to humans.

While the findings underscored the public health threat of animal coronavirus and a need to conduct better surveillance for them, the researchers said they still needed more proof.

When testing swab samples collected from 301 patients hospitalised for pneumonia in Sibu Hospital from 2017 to 2018, researchers found eight came back positive for a canine coronavirus.

Apart from a 37-year-old, the other patients were children aged 5½ months to 4½ years from Sibu, Bintulu, Daro, and Julau, who generally recovered after up to six days of hospitalisation.

The study involved researchers from Ohio State University, Duke University, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Sibu Hospital, and Segi University.

It is built on the group’s earlier work to design a new test meant to detect all coronaviruses, including those that have yet to be discovered.

For the latest study, the group managed to grow one of the eight specimens in the laboratory and gather enough of the coronavirus to undergo genomic sequencing.

They found the new virus’ genome to be mostly a match for a coronavirus previously known to infect dogs but not humans, but certain parts appear to have undergone recombination with other coronaviruses — one that typically infects cats and another that typically infects pigs.

They named the new coronavirus CCoV-HuPn-2018 (Canine Coronavirus-Human Pneumonia-2018).

According to a report on the study by the US-based broadcaster NPR, this meant the virus probably infected cats and pigs at some point but then jumped directly from dogs to people.

One mutation in CCoV-HuPn-2018 caused concern because it is not found in dog coronaviruses but is present in those that infect humans.

“It’s a mutation that’s very similar to one previously found in the SARS coronavirus and in [versions of]SARS-CoV-2 … [that appeared]very soon after its introduction into the human population,” the study’s lead author Anastasia Vlastova was quoted as saying.

The NPR report said she believes this helps the canine virus infect or persist in humans, and this might be a key step required for the virus to jump into people.

The report said this suggests they caught the virus early on its journey in people, while it was still trying to figure out how to infect people efficiently.

--Source: Borneo Post

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