With the data at hand, we see how the virus used different hosts, moving from bat to human to civet, in that order. So the civets actually got SARS from humans. We see this evolutionary sequence of events, but other biochemical reports of the poor interaction of bat viruses and human cells suggest that there remains a missing link in the wild.
To arrive at these conclusions, Janies and colleagues secured genetic data of hundreds of different isolates of the SARS-CoV virus that had been found in humans, various bats, civets, raccoon badgers and pigs. Using the same equipment that was originally developed for the Human Genome Project, scientists determined the nucleotide sequence of each of the viruses. Bioinformatics came into play as the researchers linked many computers together to be able to analyze the massive amounts of data, comparing the viral genomes and building what is called a phylogenetic tree by searching for shared mutations. Phylogenetics is the study of the evolutionary relationships among various biological species, or in this case, viruses, believed to have a common ancestor.
The resulting tree is a branching diagram that illustrates the interrelationship of various viruses. The phylogenetic tree also shows the timeline of the travels and mutations of various strains of SARS as they jumped between host species. In this tree, the SARS-CoV virus traveled from bat hosts to humans, from humans to civets and pigs, and, in rare cases late in the outbreak, back to humans.
Janies lab took the analysis many steps further, using genomes from coronaviruses that are relatives of SARS-CoV that have been isolated in humans, cows, rats, cats, dogs, mice, turkeys and pigs. Adding these additional outgr
|Contact: Daniel Janies|
Ohio State University