A new SARS-like virus, known as WIV1-CoV, found in Chinese horseshoe bats may be poised to infect humans without the need for adaptation, overcoming an initial barrier that could potentially set the stage for an outbreak according to a study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led by Ralph Baric, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. The results of the study indicate that the WIV1-coronavirus (CoV) cluster has the ability to directly infect and may undergo limited transmission in human populations.
This newly identified virus could bind to the same receptors as SARS-CoV that caused an outbreak in 2002. The WIV1-CoV cluster has been identified as a threat for future emergence in human populations due to robust replication in primary human airway epithelial cell cultures. While monoclonal antibody treatments prove effective, the SARS-based vaccine approach failed to confer protection. Vineet Menachery, Ph.D., Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC said, “To be clear, this virus may never jump to humans, but if it does, WIV1-CoV has the potential to seed a new outbreak with significant consequences for both public health and the global economy.
The study is published ahead of print March 15, 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
These findings assume significance, especially in view of the recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika.