A new coronavirus with pigs as the main host can also infect human cells. Researchers have now proven that.
The SADS-CoV (Swine Actue Diarrhea Syndrome) coronavirus has so far mainly infected pigs. In the animals, the pathogen, which was only discovered in China in 2016, causes severe diarrhea to vomit, which kills around 90 percent of piglets. According to the Verein gegen Tierfabriken (VGT), around 25,000 animals died around the turn of the year 2016/2017 alone.
Researchers assume that SADS-CoV develops in bats, a lineage that is also suspected of the current pandemic virus Sars-CoV-2. The two coronaviruses share another thing in common, which is unpleasant for us humans: Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were able to use one study prove that SADS-CoV can also infect human cells. In the test with cell cultures it was shown that the virus spreads and multiplies quickly in the human lung and digestive tract.
The pig coronavirus does not seem to use any of the previously known entry gates, as “Focus” reports. SADS-CoV should not infect human cells via the ACE2 receptor (such as Sars-CoV-2) or other docking sites known from coronaviruses. “Antibodies that block these receptors have not inhibited the virus from replicating in human cells,” report lead study leader Caitlin Edwards and her team.
Risk of another pandemic
Follow-up studies would now have to clarify how the transmission to human cells works. For Edwards, given the susceptibility of our cells to porcine coronavirus, one thing is clear: “SADS-CoV is manifesting as a potential high-risk coronavirus that could affect global health and the economy“.
The VGT stressed in a broadcast that the “unbelievable number” of pigs kept in breeding and fattening farms worldwide would represent “a dangerous problem”: “In the narrow and often unsanitary conditions, new pathogens can quickly infect thousands of animals and because of the large numbers mutate faster on potential hosts. It is easy for pathogens to spread here, “said the animal rights activist. They call for a global rethink in factory farming: “Animals suffer – humans are threatened by diseases. This system has to change!”
Remdesivir is said to be effective against pig coronavirus
There is still no confirmed transmission to humans, but for scientists this is quite possible. “Continuous monitoring of pigs is therefore crucial,” say the researchers. People who have regular contact with the animals should also be checked regularly in order to detect an outbreak as early as possible.
But there seems to be a ray of hope. The antiviral remdesivir, which is apparently ineffective for Sars-CoV-2, is said to have had a positive effect on SADS-CoV-2. So it could be a way to prevent a new pandemic.