Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New coronavirus related to viruses from bats

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the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus sequence he analyzed in the mBio® paper, showing only 99 single nucleotide differences (in an unpublished analysis).

"That makes it clear they are the same species. Ninety-nine nucleotides on the full genome amounts to only 0.3 – 0.4% difference," says Fouchier. "That, of course raises new questions."

Now a third case of illness from this new virus has been identified, this time in Saudi Arabia again, but the genome sequence of that virus is not yet available.

The genome of the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus that is the focus of the mBio® study was fully sequenced within a few days by combining an optimized random amplification deep sequencing approach, which covered about 90% of the genome, with conventional Sanger sequencing to confirm these draft findings.

Phylogenetic analyses place the virus within the Betacoronavirus genus, where its closest fully sequenced relatives are viruses called BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5, both of which were originally isolated in Asia from Lesser bamboo bats (Tylonycteris pachypus) and Japanese house bats (Pipistrellus abramus), respectively. HCoV-EMC/2012 bears only 77% sequence similarity with the BtCoV-HKU5 virus, however, making it distinct enough to be called a novel species of virus, says Fouchier. A partial sequence from a virus that was isolated from a species of bat in the Netherlands appears to be a closer match with HCoV-EMC/2012, but without a full genome sequence the exact degree of relatedness is impossible to tell.

Based on the similarities the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus shares with viruses from bats, and taking into account a separate serological study carried out in Saudi Arabia that showed 2,400 hospital visitors had no antibodies to the virus, Fouchier feels confident saying the virus is new to humans. That source may well be bats, he says, since Pipistrellus bats are present in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.

The relatedness between the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus and the virus that infected the patient in the unnamed London hospital is interesting, says Fouchier, since they are similar enough to be the same species but different enough that they are probably not directly linked. "It is unlikely they would be infected from the same source. We really need to understand whether these viruses are coming from a single source or multiple sources" before more cases come to light, he says.

In addition to the insights it provides for identifying the source of the virus and linking cases of illness together, the genome sequence of the HCoV-EMC/2012 virus will also enable scientists to study the virus in more detail. By making synthetic copies of the virus genome, Fouchier says scientists can reconstruct the virus in the lab and study its properties to identify the sources of its virulence.

The genome sequence could also be pivotal to protecting public health. "A well-annotated genome sequence is crucial to further the development of diagnostic methods and antivirals and vaccines that might be needed," says Fouchier. Considering that three cases of disease from the virus have already been identified, he says, "we certainly need the diagnostics already."

"Whether we would need antivirals and vaccines? Well, I certainly hope not," says Fouchier.

mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>