A new type of coronavirus thought to originate from dogs and be transmitted to humans has been discovered. I examined the risks this may represent for the future.
Although it is a type of coronavirus, it is not the same as SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19 and there is no evidence that it can be transmitted from human to human.
A scientific study, published in the journal Clinical infectious diseases Last Thursday, revealed that the virus had been detected and researched.
But those who suffered were being treated for pneumonia at a hospital in Malaysia between 2017 and 2018.
Assistant Professor Anastasia Vlasova, co-author of the study, told me, “At the moment, we have no reason to be concerned about this virus.
“What we’ve confirmed now (that the canine coronavirus can infect humans) has probably been happening for years and years.
“We just didn’t have the proper diagnostic tools to detect, some cases were misdiagnosed and others were simply ignored.”
How was it detected?
An American team has traced the virus using a new molecular diagnostic tool created in response to Covid-19.
Researchers tested it on 301 cases of pneumonia archived at a hospital in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak in 2017-18.
Eight of the samples, seven from children, came back positive for canine coronavirus.
If confirmed, it will be the eighth coronavirus known to cause disease in humans and the first recorded in a dog.
Genomic sequencing revealed that the new strain, named CCoV-HuPn-2018, shared characteristics with other coronaviruses known to have infected cats and pigs, but was very similar to that known to have infected dogs.
A mutation (genetic deletion) was also discovered which was not found in any known canine coronavirus but which is present in SAR-COV and SARS-COV-2, the virus causing the current pandemic.
How did he go from dogs to humans?
The mutation is believed to have helped the virus pass to humans.
It turned out to have a ‘unique mutation’, also known as a deletion, which appears to have adapted it for transmission to humans.
For an animal coronavirus to infect humans, the virus must enter the human body and recognize something on the surface of cells so that it can bind to it.
The eight pneumonia patients detected with the virus were predominantly children living in longhouses or villages in rural / suburban areas where exposure to domestic animals and jungle wildlife with the 30 family is common.
What threat does this represent?
Researchers believe this virus is likely to be more prevalent than the study suggests, but more studies are needed to establish it.
However, they say there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of this virus.
And the eight patients carrying the virus detected were treated and released within a week of their hospitalization. Some needed oxygen, but none needed mechanical ventilation.
“We have no evidence to suggest that this virus could cause a pandemic in the near future,” said Assistant Professor Vlasova, “Most of these human infections with the canine coronavirus can be hopeless spillover events.
“In other words, we don’t know if this virus is capable of human-to-human transmission, and if so, how effective it might be.”