New pig virus seems to be a threat to humans

Henrietta Strickland
May 15, 2018

Laboratory tests at Ohio State University show that the disease, known as porcine deltacoronavirus, "readily jumps between the cells of different species including humans", The Daily Telegraph reports.

First discovered in pigs in China in 2012, the virus was originally not associated with disease, but was again detected in United States pigs in 2014 resulting in the animals having acute diarrhoea and vomiting with a number of fatalities.

"Before it was found in pigs - including in the Ohio outbreak - it had only been found in various birds", said study senior author Linda Saif, an investigator in Ohio State's Food Animal Health Research Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), in Wooster. "Young infected pigs experience acute diarrhoea and vomiting and may die", according to BT News.

"We are very anxious about the emerging coronaviruses and we are anxious that they will cause harm to animals and they may jump into humans", said senior author Linda Saif, a distinguished professor of veterinary medicine at Ohio State University and an investigator at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).

Dr. Kenney stated in the press release that he and his colleagues specifically looked at the cellular receptor, aminopeptidase N, in this study because, "We know from other coronaviruses that these receptors on the cells are used and that they're found in the respiratory and digestive tracts of a number of different animals".

Scott Kenney, lead researcher and an assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine based in the food animal health research program at OARDC, explained in a statement that a virus can jump across species if it can bind to the receptors on its cells. If the virus is able to open the lock, it can get into the cell and also infect the host.

"From this point of view, this is only a question of whether it can replicate within the cell and cause these animal and human diseases". The virus can easily find its way in the cultured cells of people and other species in the laboratory. Scientists fear that a virus in pigs could cross the species barrier.

Although this finding does not prove that the virus can, in fact, cause disease in other species, it does encourage further investigation.

In 2002 and 2003, a Sars outbreak that began in China was linked to 774 deaths in 37 countries. Meanwhile, the on-going MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia led to more than 1,800 cases and 787 deaths since 2012. This was particularly worrying because previous studies found that SARS originated in bats before spreading to people.

A swine biosecurity specialist from the Iowa State University in Ames estimated that a tablespoon of manure infected with the virus could infect an entire herd of hogs.

At the time, experts dismissed the possibility that the virus could jump to humans, hence, nullifying altogether any direct threat to public health. For four decades, there has been no evidence yet of anyone getting infected by the virus even among those people who worked closely with pigs.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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