Wuhan coronavirus is genetically different from human SARS, MERS-CoV, study found

Wuhan coronavirus is genetically different from human SARS, MERS-CoV, study found

Flight carrying Brits from Wuhan not allowed to take-off The study findings unveiled that the Wuhan coronavirus fell within the subgenus Sarbecovirus of the genus Betacoronavirus, mostly similar to its closest relatives, the bat-derived coronaviruses, and genetically distinct from the human SARS. But the Wuhan coronavirus has a similar receptor-binding domain structure to that of human SARS, which means the virus utilizes the same molecular doorway as SARS to enter human cells. "It is striking that the sequences of 2019-nCoV described here from different patients were almost identical. This finding suggests that 2019-nCoV originated from one source within a very short period and was detected relatively rapidly. However, as the virus transmits to more individuals, constant surveillance of mutations arising is needed," Professor Weifeng Shi, Key Laboratory of Etiology and Epidemiology of Emerging Infectious Diseases in Universities of Shandong, Shandong First Medical University and Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences, China, said in a statement. Possible bat origin Based on the evidence and study findings, the team believes that the Wuhan coronavirus more likely came from bats and transmitted to humans through a currently unknown wild animal sold at the Huanan seafood market. What’s more, the scientists think that the coronaviruses form bats are mutating than the 2019-nCoV, which means that the virus is less likely to have emerged because of a chance mutation. Still, further research and more information are needed to determine the exact source of the virus and how it jumped from the animal to humans. “These data are consistent with a bat reservoir for coronaviruses in general and 2019-nCoV in particular. However, despite the importance of bats, it seems likely that another animal host is acting as an intermediate host between bats and humans," Professor Guizhen Wu, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said. She believes that though bats are the likely original host of the virus, there might be an intermediate host of the virus, between bats and humans. She noted that the first surge of coronavirus cases started late in December 2019, a period when most of the bat species are hibernating. Also, she emphasized that before the outbreak, there were no bats sold or found in the Huanan seafood market, while many mammals and other non-aquatic animals were sold. Prof. Wu said that the genetic sequences between the Wuhan coronavirus and its close relatives, the bat-derived coronaviruses, were less than 90 percent, which means that these viruses are not direct ancestors of the novel coronavirus that has killed over 160 people and infected nearly 8,000 people in China, spreading to more than a dozen countries across the globe. Lastly, in both the MERS and SARS infections, bats served as the natural reservoir, with another animal acting as an intermediate host. Therefore, she said that a wild animal might have acted as a hidden virus reservoir, posing threat to human populations. Journal reference: Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding Lu, Roujian et al. The Lancet, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30251-8/fulltext



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