The virus that is causing alarm among global public health authorities after it killed a man in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia earlier this year and is now linked to two other cases of disease is a novel type of coronavirus most closely related to viruses found in bats, according to a genetic analysis to be published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on November 20. Researchers studied the genome of the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus in detail to learn about its relatedness to other viruses and about possible sources. The results of the sequencing and analysis could be used to develop diagnostic methods and possibly in creating therapies and vaccines if they are eventually needed for this emerging disease.
"The virus is most closely related to viruses in bats found in Asia, and there are no human viruses closely related to it," says Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, who headed up the study. "Therefore, we speculate that it comes from an animal source."
The case in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, in which a 60-year-old man suffered from acute pneumonia and renal failure before his death, reminded public health authorities around the world of the threat posed by coronaviruses, a group that includes the the SARS virus, a pathogen that emerged in 2002 and eventually lead to the deaths of more than 900 people.
The HCoV-EMC/2012 virus is under increasing scrutiny today as two other patients suffering from infections with similar viruses have been identified. Since the patient in Saudi Arabia died in June, an individual from Qatar has been diagnosed with a very similar condition and is currently being cared for at a hospital in London. The full genomic sequence of the virus from that patient was made available on November 13, and Fouchier says it is a very close match with the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus sequence he analyzed in the mBio paper, showing only 99 single nucleotide
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology