A new canine coronavirus was found in a child hospitalized for pneumonia in Malaysia in 2018. The findings were published on Thursday in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. The study stresses it is not clear whether this specific virus is dangerous to humans.
If the canine coronavirus is confirmed as a human pathogen, it would be the eighth coronavirus known to infect humans. This includes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Dr. Gregory Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University and is one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times this strand most likely originated from a dog, although scientists aren’t fully certain.
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“I think the key message here is that these things are probably happening all over the world, where people come in contact with animals, especially intense contact, and we’re not picking them up,” Gray said. “We should be looking for these things. If we can catch them early and find out that these viruses are successful in the human host, then we can mitigate them before they become a pandemic virus.”
In the study, researchers tested nasal swab samples taken from 301 pneumonia patients at a hospital in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, according to Reuters. Eight of the samples tested positive for a canine coronavirus. The samples mostly came from children under 5 years old.
Through additional genomic sequencing, the new strain found was named CCoV-HuPn-2018. Researchers discovered the new strand had similarities to other coronaviruses that infected cats and pigs. It had the most similarities with the virus known to infect dogs.
The canine strand also contained a genetic mutation, that was not found in any known canine coronaviruses but was present in human strains such as SARS-COV and SARS-COV-2.
The study doesn’t confirm whether pneumonia was caused by the virus. It does however emphasize the need for research on viruses that can jump from animals to humans.
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