Coronavirus: Expert discusses Wuhan 'pangolin origin'

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At least eight patients treated in a hospital in Sarawak, Malaysia, were found to carry the new coronavirus. According to a report published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, scientists collected swabs from 301 patients hospitalised with pneumonia between 2017 and 2018. The swabs identified Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) in 2.5 percent of the patients, the majority of which were children.

The report comes amid the tragic death toll caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV02), which caused COVID-19 and has killed more than 170 million people globally.

Although both are coronaviruses, the new strain is an alphacoronavirus, while SARS-CoV02 is a betacoronavirus.

The pathogens are divided into alpha, beta, gamma and delta coronaviruses.

Complete genome sequencing of the new species has identified it as a novel canine-feline coronavirus, suggesting it has jumped onto the patients from infected dogs.

The discovery has raised some concerns, considering SARS-CoV02 most likely jumped onto humans from bats.

The coronavirus family of pathogens is zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted between humans and animals alike.

Including the novel coronavirus, seven species are known to infect humans.

Scientists have named the newly discovered virus CCoV-HuPn-2018, suggesting it may yet become the eighth species that can infect humans – but more work needs to be done before this assertion can be made.

The researchers wrote in their report: “This is the first report of a novel canine-feline recombinant alphacoronavirus isolated from a human pneumonia patient.

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“If confirmed as a pathogen, it may represent the eighth unique coronavirus known to cause disease in humans.

“Our findings underscore the public health threat of animal CoVs and a need to conduct better surveillance for them.”

Some experts who have analysed the report, however, believe there is little to fear from the new virus.

Scientists have known about coronavirus infecting dogs for 50 years now.

And according to Sarah L Caddy, a clinical research fellow in Viral Immunology at the University of Cambridge, there are no previous reports of these viruses infecting humans.

It also appears as though the pneumonia might have been caused by other viruses carried by the treated patients.

In an article for The Conversation, the expert wrote: “Was canine coronavirus responsible for the pneumonia in the patients? At the moment, we simply can’t tell.

“Seven out of eight patients were simultaneously infected with another virus, either adenovirus, influenza or parainfluenza virus.

“We know that all of these viruses can cause pneumonia by themselves, so it is more likely that these were responsible for the disease.

“We can say there is an association between pneumonia and canine coronavirus in these patients, but we can’t say it is the cause.”

Considering the infections ocurred three to four years ago, without any major outbreak occurring since, should reassure people.

The expert added: “The vast majority of these will be of academic interest only, and need not raise alarm.

“However, it is critical that surveillance for new coronaviruses continues and expands so that we have the best possible chance of identifying significant cross-species jumps in the future.”

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