MALAYSIA: A medical journal published on Thursday (May 20) reports that a new coronavirus usually found in dogs was discovered in pneumonia patients’ swab samples – taken in 2018 – in Sarawak, Malaysia.
According to the paper written by a team of scientists from around the world — including the US, Malaysia, and China — the case is believed to be the first canine coronavirus isolated in a human patient, reported South China Morning Post.
Researchers from Duke University and Malaysia had discovered the virus while working on a project studying the causes of pneumonia and creating viral detection capacity in Sarawak.
Following the outbreak of the global pandemic last year, Dr Gregory Gray — an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University’s Global Health Institute — and a graduate student in his lab, Leshan Xiu, decided to build a test that can detect all coronaviruses, including unidentified ones, reported NPR.
Gray and Xiu discovered evidence of a new type of coronavirus related to pneumonia in the first batch of samples tested.
The samples had come from 301 hospitalised pneumonia patients who were admitted in 2017 and 2018 at Sibu and Kapit hospitals in Sarawak.
“These were deep nasal swabs, like doctors collect with the COVID-19 patients,” Gray was quoted saying by NPR.
Gray and Xiu had found that the eight out of the 301 samples from patients — who showed symptoms of regular pneumonia — had their upper respiratory tracts infected with a coronavirus only found in dogs.
Ohio State University virologist Anastasia Vlasova — who analysed the samples sent by Gray and Xiu — found that the virus transmitted between dogs, and even cats and pigs at one point.
However, she had also discovered a mutation, similarly found in SARS and strains of COVID-19, in the new virus genome that could allow animal to human transmissions to occur, reported NPR.
“Coronaviruses frequently exchange genetic components that allow some of them to adapt to humans better.
Whether it makes it as an epidemic virus, we don’t know, but this thing may be on its way to becoming more transmissible and a more serious pathogen,” she was quoted saying by South China Morning Post.
– BERNAMA/NEW STRAITS TIMES