Study shows numerous species of animals are vulnerable to Covid-19

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 06, 2020

The researchers examined how the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 could interact with the ACE2 protein

According to a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, there is a growing body of evidence that at least 26 different species of animals regularly in contact with humans, are vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

For the study, the researchers examined how the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 could interact with the ACE2 protein it attaches to when it infects people.

The researchers, through their study, investigated whether coronavirus mutations could target the ACE2 receptors in 215 different animals. And, whether the binding of the virus to the receptor is stable or not.

The researchers said it is unlikely based on current evidence that the virus could infect an animal if it cannot form a stable binding complex with ACE2.

The researchers found that for some animals, including sheep and great apes (chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, and bonobo, many of which are endangered in the wild), the proteins would be able to bind together just as strongly as they do when the virus infects people.

Lead author Professor Christine Orengo (UCL Structural & Molecular Biology) said in an official statement: “We wanted to look beyond just the animals that had been studied experimentally, to see which animals might be at risk of infection, and would warrant further investigation and possible monitoring.”

He added: “The animals we identified may be at risk of outbreaks that could threaten endangered species or harm the livelihoods of farmers. The animals might also act as reservoirs of the virus, with the potential to re-infect humans later on, as has been documented on mink farms.”

The research team also performed a more detailed structural analysis of certain animals. This was done in order to gain a better understanding of how infection risks may differ across animal species.

The researchers found that most birds, fish, and reptiles do not appear to be at risk of infection, but the majority of the mammals they reviewed could potentially be infected.

Professor Orengo further said: “The details of host infection and severity of response are more complex than just the interactions of the spike protein with ACE2, so our research is continuing to explore interactions involving other host-virus proteins.”

The team's findings predicted possible infection in domestic cats, dogs, mink, lions, and tigers, all of which have had reported cases, as well as ferrets and macaques, which have been infected in laboratory studies.

Published on October 06, 2020

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