The new coronavirus that has emerged in the Middle East is well-adapted to infecting humans but could potentially be treated with immunotherapy, according to a study to be published on February 19 in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The study indicates that the virus HCoV-EMC can penetrate the lining of the passageways in the lung and evade the innate immune system as easily as a cold virus can, signs that HCoV-EMC is well-equipped for infecting human cells. The study also reveals that the virus is susceptible to treatment with interferons, components of the immune system that have been used successfully to treat other viral diseases, opening a possible mode of treatment in the event of a large-scale outbreak.
"Surprisingly, this coronavirus grows very efficiently on human epithelial cells," says co-author Volker Thiel of The Institute of Immunobiology at Kantonal Hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Thiel says these new data indicate that although HCoV-EMC may have jumped from animals to humans very recently, it is just as well adapted to infecting the human respiratory tract as other, more familiar human coronaviruses, including the SARS virus and the common cold virus, HCoV-229E.
HCoV-EMC first came to light in June when it was isolated from a man in Saudi Arabia who died from a severe respiratory infection and kidney failure. Since that time, public health officials have identified an additional 10 infected persons, nine of whom had traveled in the Middle East and one who had recent contact with an infected person. The emergence of HCoV-EMC, which is related to the SARS virus, has raised concern that it may eventually lead to a pandemic much like the SARS pandemic of 2002-2003, which is estimated to have sickened over 8,000 people and killed 774 worldwide.
For the mBio study, Thiel and his colleagues tested how well HCoV-EMC could infect and multiply in the entryways t
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology