Navigation Links
Novel coronavirus well-adapted to humans, susceptible to immunotherapy

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 to the human lung using cultured bronchial cells manipulated to mimic the airway lining. The lining of the lung, or epithelium, represents an important first barrier against respiratory viruses, but they apparently don't put up a big fight against HCoV-EMC, says Thiel. He and his colleagues found that human airway epithelial cells are highly susceptible to HCoV-EMC infection and that the virus is able to multiply at a faster initial rate than the SARS virus.

"The other thing we found is that the viruses [HCoV-EMC, SARS, and the common cold virus] are all similar in terms of host responses: they don't provoke a huge innate immune response," Thiel says. This is an indication that HCoV-EMC is already well adapted to the human host and that the virus uses that same strategy other coronaviruses use for evading the host's non-specific immune mechanisms.

The authors asked themselves whether boosting this weak immune response might diminish the virus' ability to infect airway epithelial cells. They found that pre-treating the cells with lambda-type interferons, proteins that are released by host cells in response to infection and enable communication between cells to mount an immune response, significantly reduced the number of infected cells. This is encouraging from a treatment standpoint, note the authors, since interferons have also shown a good deal of promise for treating SARS and another viral illness, Hepatitis C.

Thiel and co-author Ronald Dijkman emphasize that their work with HCoV-EMC would not have been possible without the efforts of many different research groups from Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands, and Denmark.

Ongoing collaboration is crucial, they say. Future research to head off outbreaks of HCoV-EMC and other emerging diseases requires cooperation and trust among scientists and health agencies, a goal that is not always achieved. The future of this virus is uncertain, Thiel points out, but access to samples from a wider range of patients and epidemiological work could answer some fundamental questions, including where the virus is coming from and what the true prevalence of the virus is.

"We don't know whether the cases we observe are the tip of the iceberg," says Thiel. "Or whether many more people are infected without showing severe symptoms."


Contact: Jim Sliwa
American Society for Microbiology

Related biology news :

1. Researchers discover novel therapy for Crohns disease
2. New clinical trial explores novel noninvasive colon cancer screening test
3. Notre Dame researchers using novel method to combat malaria drug resistance
4. Unique adaptations to a symbiotic lifestyle reveal novel targets for aphid insecticides
5. Key proteins newly discovered form and function may provide novel cancer treatment target
6. Novel discovery by NUS scientists paves the way for more effective treatment of cancers
7. London researchers discover novel mechanism involved in key immune response
8. Mexican rock heroes trial novel green trading system
9. VTT and GE Healthcare developing novel biomarkers to predict Alzheimers disease
10. Cleveland Clinic researchers receive $5 million grant to discover novel pathways to heart disease
11. Novel nano-structures to realize hydrogens energy potential
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today ... its Board of Directors. --> ... recently retiring from the partnership at TPG Capital, one ... with over $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded and ... all the TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... Mass. , Nov. 12, 2015  Arxspan ... Institute of MIT and Harvard for use of ... discovery information management tools. The partnership will support ... both biological and chemical research information internally and ... will be used for managing the Institute,s electronic ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... , Nov. 10, 2015 ... behavioral biometrics that helps to identify and verify ... Signature is considered as the secure and accurate ... identification of a particular individual because each individual,s ... accurate results especially when dynamic signature of an ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... and HOLLISTON, Mass. , ... Inc. (Nasdaq: HART ), a biotechnology company developing ... CEO Jim McGorry will present at the ... 1, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation will ... for 30 days. Management will also be available at ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; TSX: ... prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the following ... received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC Phase ... the final interim efficacy and safety data ... men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant prostate ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... a fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th ... . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, ... .  A replay will be available for 14 days ... , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development , ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman ... AngelList early in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it ... to make early stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they ...
Breaking Biology Technology: