WASHINGTON United States (Xinhua) --
A team of researchers in the United States and Uganda has
identified a novel coronavirus in a bat from Uganda that is similar to the one
causing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in people, providing further
support to the theory that such viruses originate in bats.
experiments with the virus, named PREDICT/PDF-2180, indicated that in its
current state it is unlikely to pose a threat to humans, according to the study
published Tuesday in mBio, an online open-access journal of the American Society
study, researchers from the University of California, Davis and the non-profit
organization Gorilla Doctors sequenced the genome of the PDF-2180 virus found in
a rectal swab taken from a bat trapped in February 2013 in southwestern Uganda.
virus was 87 percent identical to the deadly MERS virus and 91 percent identical
to NeoCoV, another coronavirus found in a bat from South Africa.
of the spike gene, the segment of the virus responsible for invading cells, was
only 46 percent identical to the one belonging to the MERS virus.
Next, to test
the ability of the virus to spread to humans, researchers at the University of
North Carolina constructed an infectious MERS clone expressing the PDF-2180
derived from the clone could reproduce themselves but could not enter cells
expressing DPP4, the receptor normally used by MERS, or establish new infections
either in cells derived from monkeys or in human airway cells from healthy lung
current form, evolution notwithstanding, this virus is probably not going to be
a threat to human health,” said lead study author Simon Anthony, an assistant
professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University.
of the virus adds to the growing number of coronaviruses identified in bats,
Anthony said, including coronaviruses in South Africa, Mexico, Thailand, the
Netherlands, Italy and China.
“Collectively, these examples demonstrate that the MERS-related coronaviruses
are highly associated with bats and are geographically widespread,” Anthony
reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, is an illness marked by severe acute
respiratory disease with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About
four of every 10 patients with the condition have died, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.