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Causes acute diarrhea: pig coronavirus, dangerous to humans, found in China

A strain of coronavirus that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in pigs and infects entire herds of these cloven-hoofed animals in China, "could spread to humans," according to a new study. Writes about it The Daily Mail.

Photo: Shutterstock

It is believed that this strain - "swine acute diarrhea syndrome" or SADS-CoV - originated in bats and was transmitted to animals. It was discovered relatively recently - in 2016. It is most dangerous for piglets. A wider outbreak of SADS-CoV could cause serious economic damage in countries that depend on pork production and sale.

For example, the United States last year ranked third in the world for pork production, and in 2012, the industry was hit by another swine coronavirus.

Researchers in North Carolina have shown that SADS-CoV can infect and replicate in the respiratory tract, liver and intestinal cells of humans.

SADS-CoV belongs to the same virus family as SARS-CoV-2, the agent behind the COVID-19 pandemic, but belongs to a different genus. Specifically, SADS-CoV is an alpha coronavirus, while SARS-CoV-2 is a beta coronavirus.

"Many researchers are focusing on the emerging potential of beta-coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS," explains article author and epidemiologist Ralph Barick of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "In fact, alpha coronaviruses can cause as much, if not more, concern in terms of human health, given their ability to rapidly transition from one species to another."

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The researchers explained that SADS-CoV is different from two common cold alpha-coronaviruses in humans - HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63.

In their study, Professor Barik and colleagues investigated the risk that SADS-CoV could pass from pigs and infect human populations. To test this, they infected various cell types with the porcine coronavirus and tracked how the virus replicated and spread.

The researchers found that a wide range of mammalian cells (including primary human lung and intestinal cells) are susceptible to SADS-CoV infection.

However, the team noted that unlike SARS-CoV-2, swine coronavirus is able to replicate faster in intestinal cells rather than lungs.

Moreover, the data obtained suggest that with regard to SADS-CoV, humans have not acquired the cross-protective herd immunity, which may prevent us from contracting coronaviruses from animal populations.

“SADS-CoV comes from the bat coronaviruses called HKU2, which are a heterogeneous group of viruses that spread globally,” said article author and public health expert Kaitlyn Edwards.

“It is impossible to predict whether this virus or the closely related HKU2 bat strain could emerge and infect human populations,” she added. "However, the broad spectrum of SADS-CoV, combined with the ability to replicate in primary human lung and enteric cells, demonstrates the potential risk of future events in human and animal populations."

The researchers also examined the potential effect of treating SADS-CoV with the antiviral drug Remdesivir, which has been touted as a means to accelerate recovery from COVID-19. Most recently, it was used to treat the coronavirus of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

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Preliminary results indicate that the drug is effective against SADS-CoV, although testing in animals and other cell types will be required to confirm this.

“The promising data with Remdesivir provides a potential treatment option for humans if exposed to the virus,” Edwards said and stressed the need for vaccines for both animals and humans.

The full results of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Remdesivir: key facts

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug first developed to treat Ebola, has been experimentally used to treat COVID-19 patients since the early days of the outbreak. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use of the drug on May 1 in response to preliminary study results published in late April.

According to Hackensack Meridian Health, initially only critically ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients were eligible for Remdesivir treatment. On August 28, the FDA allowed it to all hospitalized adults and children with suspected or laboratory confirmed COVID-19 disease, regardless of the severity of the illness.

However, in August, a report by Californian drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc. it was found that its effect can only be noticeable in persons with severe infection. There are claims of recovery, better chances of survival and a shorter course of the disease, but other studies have shown that treatment with Remdesivir does not significantly change the condition of patients.

Remdesivir produced encouraging results earlier this year when it showed promise for both prevention and treatment of MERS (another type of coronavirus in macaques). The drug appears to be helping to stop the replication of viruses like coronavirus and Ebola. It's not entirely clear how this works, but it seems to stop the virus's genetic material from copying itself in cells, which stops the virus from replicating inside the patient's body.

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