New research has suggested that hundreds of mammal species might be able to serve as hosts for coronaviruses to blend and form new viruses, which have the potential to cause other pandemics in the future. The study has noted that these species consist of wild animals like bats and monkeys, and domestic animals such as pigs and cats. The new research shows the potential of coronaviruses to transmit a disease to a wide range of hosts. Experts have found out hundreds of animal species that might be infected with a range of known coronaviruses. However, many of these infections have not been seen in the wild yet. The results of the research have been released in the journal called Nature Communications. As per the report, coronaviruses belong to a large family of viruses, which have the ability to infect both birds and mammals.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which leads to COVID19 disease, is one of the members of the coronavirus family. In the study, experts have drawn the genetic sequences of 411 coronaviruses from GenBank that is a National Institutes of Health database. They have analyzed these genetic sequences with the help of a computer algorithm. The sequences have shown 92 diverse species of coronavirus and some species have been represented by more than one variant of the virus.
The study has predicted that each virus contains more than 12 mammalian hosts on average. On the other hand, each screened animal species has been identified to be a possible host for more than five viruses on average. Experts have claimed that animals that are able to harbor many coronaviruses pose the biggest threat. They have said that many coronavirus variants are able to invade the same cell; therefore, their genes can be mixed while they replicate. This process will form new patchwork viruses. The authors of the study have said that the genetic card shuffle, which is also known as recombination, can be deadly specifically for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If this virus swaps genes with other coronaviruses, the resulting virus can more contagious to humans. It might be able to attack additional tissues and lead to a more fatal disease, said the experts. The study has found 126 non-human species that are able to host the SARS-CoV-2 virus along with at least one other coronavirus.
These species might prompt this disturbing scenario to unfold. Marcus Blagrove and Maya Wardeh, the authors of the study have said that a large number of animals have been identified to be potential hosts to a large number of coronaviruses, which is quite surprising. Earlier, bats have been found to be hosts for a range of coronaviruses. Now, experts have found many high-risk hosts all across the mammals such as rodents, primates, and hoofed animals.
Other experts have said that if two coronaviruses can infect the same animal, it does not mean that they can or will recombine to form a new virus. Two viruses need to infect the same cell type and infections need to be at a peak at the same time for recombination. However, the new study offers useful details about the mammal species that might harbor a number of coronaviruses and lead to events of recombination in the future. The computer algorithm, which has been used in the study, has observed the links between potential incubators and known coronaviruses. This algorithm has shown which animals are at higher risk of being infected with a number of known coronaviruses. After finding these links, the algorithm has tracked which mammals might be potential hosts for a larger number of coronaviruses and might serve as hotbeds for recombination. With the help of the algorithm, experts have screened 876 mammal species, which has included 187 known coronavirus hosts.
All variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been included in the analysis and they have been treated as a single entity. Nearly 126 species have been found to be potential hosts to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Some animals have been kept in the highest risk category for recombination. Some species have been identified as possible recombination hosts for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There have been some wild animals that have been linked to the SARS-CoV-2 virus recombination such as an Asiatic yellow bat, chimpanzee, and African green monkey. However, the domestic pig has been spotted as the most prominent host for the SARS-CoV-2 virus recombination, as it is able to host around 121 coronaviruses along with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.