Some coronaviruses steal genes of their host to evade immune system response: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 09, 2021 Published on February 09, 2021

This came to light during research on European hedgehogs

Some coronaviruses take in some genetic material of their host in order to blend in and become less detectable to the immune system, according to a study.

The study, published in the journal Viruses, noted that coronaviruses encompass a sophisticated evolutionary mechanism.

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“Research in this field is fundamental to understand the functioning of illnesses that can spread from animals to humans so that we can efficiently manage ecosystems and provide a balance between the species inhabiting them”, said Mauro Delogu, a researcher at the University of Bologna and one of the authors of this study.

Evolutionary strategy

Researchers made this discovery while they were examining coronaviruses found in specimens of European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). They named this strain ‘EriCoV’.

The authors of the study observed that the viruses belong to the same strain of Beta-CoV responsible for Covid-19 as well as MERS. However, there is no evidence that they can spread to humans.

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These hedgehog coronaviruses are able to steal a gene (CD200) that belongs to the host. When combined with its receptor, this gene prevents an excessive inflammatory response. By incorporating this gene, the virus can hinder the immune defence of the host, the researchers explained.

The authors of the study believe that with this evolutionary strategy, coronaviruses can influence the duration of the infection and therefore prolong the time necessary to eliminate the virus.

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Published on February 09, 2021
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