Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered a second instance of canine coronavirus causing infection in humans.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can affect both humans and animals Sometimes viruses can jump from animals to humans, causing disease. This is what we call a spillover event. Previous outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012 all occurred due to animal coronaviruses gaining entry into humans. Even the current SARS-CoV-2 virus likely spread from bats to humans. Therefore, researchers are worried about other viruses such as the canine coronavirus causing severe diseases in humans in the future.
Earlier in May, researchers discovered the first case of canine coronavirus causing infection in humans. The discovery took place in Malaysia where several people developed pneumonia-like symptoms. Most of the patients lived in rural areas and had exposure to animals and wildlife. Now, a team at the University of Florida have discovered another similar instance.
A 99.4% Match
In March 2017, a medical team member at the University of Florida returned from a trip to Haiti with mild fever and malaise. Due to a Zika virus outbreak in Haiti at the time, researchers conducted screening tests for the virus. But the test came back negative. They decided to obtain a urine sample from the person for inoculating cell cultures. The team then observed changes in the cells in response to various viral infections.
While conducting a diagnostic test, researchers did discover the presence of a coronavirus; however, it was not strong enough to match to ones commonly present in humans. Further tests revealed it was similar to the canine coronavirus strain found in Malaysia. Although the strain was a 99.4% match with the Malaysian strain, it had undergone genetic mixing with other dog coronaviruses and those in pigs and cats.
Despite the concerning finding, researchers are not losing any sleep over the possibility of a canine coronavirus outbreak. However, experts believe that further research into coronaviruses can help predict future spillover events. Thus, ultimately preventing any future outbreaks.
John A Lednicky et al, Isolation of a Novel Recombinant Canine Coronavirus from a Visitor to Haiti: Further Evidence of Transmission of Coronaviruses of Zoonotic Origin to Humans, Clinical Infectious Diseases (2021). DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciab924