Scientists Demonstrate SADS-CoV’s Potential to Infect Humans
A strain of coronavirus that has plagued the swine industry in recent years may have the ability to spread to humans, warn researchers.
The Swine Acute Diarrhea Syndrome Coronavirus (SADS-CoV) has been infecting pig herds across China since its discovery in 2016, according to a new report.
In laboratory tests, scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill demonstrated that SADS-CoV can replicate in human liver, intestine, and respiratory cells.
While belonging to the same family as the beta coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19 in humans, SADS-CoV is an alpha coronavirus that induces gastrointestinal illnesses (severe diarrhea and vomiting) in pigs. It is particularly deadly for piglets.
Equal Concern for Human Health
SADS-CoV is also distinct from two alpha coronaviruses causing common colds in humans, HCoV-229E, and HCoV-NL63, explained the study’s authors.
“While many researchers focus on the emerging potential of beta coronaviruses like SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] and MERS [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome], alpha coronaviruses can be an equally important concern – if not greater – for human health, given their potential to jump rapidly between species,” stated co-author of the study, Ralph Baric, in a UNC press release. He is a professor of epidemiology at the university’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.
The Covid-19 pandemic serves as a powerful reminder that many coronavirus strains affecting animals have the potential to transfer to humans, noted the researchers.
According to co-author Caitlin Edwards, “SADS-CoV is derived from bat coronaviruses called HKU2, which is a heterogeneous group of viruses with a global distribution.” Edwards is a research specialist and master’s student in public health at UNC.
“It is impossible to predict whether this virus, or a closely related HKU2 bat strain, could emerge and infect human populations,” added Edwards. “However, the broad range of hosts for SADS-CoV, coupled with its ability to replicate in human lung and enteric cells [gastrointestinal], demonstrates potential risk for future emergency events in human and animal populations.”