Does a swine virus endanger human health?
Researchers have now identified a new virus in pigs that could also pose a risk to humans. The virus appears to be able to spread from pigs to humans.
In their current study, scientists from Ohio State University (USA) and Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that a special virus can apparently be transmitted from pigs to humans. This naturally raises concerns about how a potential outbreak could affect people. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "PNAS".
Human cells grown in the laboratory were infected
So far, the newly identified virus called Porcine Delta Corona Virus has infected cells from humans and other species that have already been grown in a laboratory. A real transfer from pig to human has probably not yet taken place, the researchers report.
Virus infection can be fatal to pigs
The virus was first discovered in China in 2012, but was not associated with disease there, the doctors explain. It was then detected in the United States in 2014 during a diarrhea outbreak in pigs in Ohio. If pigs are infected with the virus, they can develop acute diarrhea and vomiting, which can even lead to the animal's death, the experts add.
Why are corona viruses so dangerous?
The new corona virus is very worrying. It can cause severe damage to animals, but it is particularly dangerous that the virus can also be transmitted to humans, explains study author Professor Dr. Linda Saif of the Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
How does an infection go?
The swine viruses used a specific docking site on the cell surface to infect different species. This receptor is called aminopeptidase-N. Such receptors occur on cells of the respiratory tract and in the digestive tract of animals and humans. The virus has the potential to affect various hosts. This is particularly alarming because the swine virus is already widespread worldwide, the experts say. Pigs are found in many countries and are the second most frequently farmed animals in the world.
Virus is similar to SARS and MERS
No human cases of the virus have been documented so far. However, scientists are concerned about the similarity of the virus to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS. These two viral diseases also originally came from animals, but later infected humans and even led to some deaths.
Virus can also affect cats and chickens
The Porcine Delta Corona Virus (PDCoV) has only affected human cell cultures in a laboratory, but no real people have been infected so far, explains Professor Dr. Saif. It was also found that the virus can also bind to receptors in the cells of cats and chickens.
More research is needed
The next step is to better understand the virus and its potential for human infection. Antibodies in the blood must be looked for, which could serve as evidence that the swine virus had previously infected humans, say the doctors. At least such a disease is not yet known. It is also unclear how successful the virus infection would be in humans. Could it also multiply in human cells and spread from there to other people or animals? In further examinations, the blood samples from people who had previously come into contact with sick pigs are now to be analyzed. In general, the appearance of new corona viruses is not without danger, they are capable of causing great damage to animals and can be transmitted to humans, explains study author Professor Dr. (as)