Does hCoV-EMC use the same receptor? If so, the means of controlling this new virus might become clearer.
"The answer is a clear no," says Drosten. "This virus does not use ACE2." This leaves open the possiblity that hCoV-EMC could use a receptor in the human lung that is easier to access and could make the virus more infectious than SARS, but it is still not known what receptor the virus does use.
To help identify how hCoV-EMC might have originated and moved between humans and animals, the second part of the study focused on the animal species the virus can infect. SARS is closely related to viruses from bats, but Drosten says the virus changed in the transition from bats to civet cats to humans and could no longer infect bats, so SARS was not present in the wild and did not pass repeatedly from bats to humans like a classical zoonotic disease. "So the [SARS] virus lost its old host and gained a new one," says Drosten.
Like SARS, hCoV-EMC is most closely related to coronaviruses from bats, but unlike SARS, this study found that hCoV-EMC can still infect cells from many different species of bats. "This was a big surprise," says Drosten. "It's completely unusual for any coronavirus to be able to do that to go back to its original reservoir." The virus is also able to infect cells from pigs, indicating that it uses a receptor structure that all these animals have in common. If that receptor is present in mucosal surfaces, like the lining of the lung, it is possible the virus could pass from animals to
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology