Scientists from Cornell University found a shift that occurs in canine coronavirus that may provide clues as to how it transmits from animals to humans.
The research is published in the journal Viruses and was conducted by Michael Stanhope et al.
A new canine coronavirus was first identified in two Malaysian human patients who developed pneumonia in 2017-18.
A group of other scientists isolated the canine coronavirus, sequenced it, and published their findings in 2021.
In the study, the researchers used state-of-the-art molecular evolution tools to assess how pressures from natural selection may have influenced the canine coronavirus’ evolution.
The same variant of canine coronavirus found in Malaysia was also reported in 2021 in a few people in Haiti, who also had a respiratory illnesses.
The team identified a pattern that occurs in a terminus of the canine coronavirus spike protein—the area of the virus that facilitates entry into a host cell.
This pattern shows the virus shifts from infecting both the intestines and respiratory system of the animal host to infecting only the respiratory system in a human host.
The researchers identified a change in the terminus—known as the N terminus—a region of the molecule with alterations also detected in another coronavirus, which jumped from bats to humans, where it causes a common cold.
The team says they identify some of the molecular mechanisms underlying a host shift from dog coronavirus to a new human host, which may also be important in the circulation of a new human coronavirus that we previously didn’t know about.
They believe more study is needed to understand if the viral shifts and jumps to humans occurred spontaneously in different parts of the world or if this coronavirus has been circulating for perhaps many decades in the human population without detection.
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