'Dog coronavirus found in humans' – why you shouldn't worry

Scientists have found a new canine coronavirus in a handful of people hospitalised with pneumonia. This may sound alarming, but once we unpack it, you will see that there’s no reason to lose any sleep.

The discovery of the canine coronavirus in eight people at a hospital in Sarawak, Malaysia, was reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases by a group of highly regarded international scientists. So does this mean dogs can spread coronaviruses to humans?

The first thing to clarify is what canine coronavirus is. Importantly, it is quite distinct from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The coronavirus family can be divided into four groups of viruses: alpha, beta, gamma and delta coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 falls within the betacoronaviruses group, whereas the canine coronaviruses are in the entirely separate alphacoronavirus group.

Scientists have known about canine coronaviruses for almost 50 years. These viruses have existed in relative obscurity over most of this period, being of interest only to veterinary virologists and occasional dog owners. There are no previous reports of these viruses infecting people. But the sudden international spotlight on all coronaviruses is finding coronaviruses in places we haven’t looked before.

The canine coronavirus infections recently identified in people were actually discovered serendipitously. Scientists were not specifically looking for canine coronavirus, and the patients involved had long since recovered. The researchers were trying to develop a new test that could detect all kinds of coronaviruses at the same time – a so-called pan-CoV test.


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

After confirming the test worked on samples of viruses grown in laboratories, they tested it on 192 human swabs from hospitalised pneumonia patients in Malaysia. Nine of these samples tested positive for coronaviruses.

Further analysis showed that five out of the nine samples were ordinary human coronaviruses that can cause colds. But, surprisingly, four of the samples were canine coronavirus. Further study of patients from the same hospital revealed four more positive patients.

The researchers studied nose and throat swabs from all eight Malaysian patients to try to learn more about the canine coronaviruses. Samples were put onto dog cells in the lab to see if any live virus was present. Virus from a single sample replicated well, and virus particles could be seen using electron microscopy. The scientists were also able to sequence the virus’s genome.

The analysis found that this canine coronavirus was closely related to a few different alphacoronaviruses – including those from pigs and cats – and showed it had not previously been identified anywhere else.

A PCR thermocycler.
A PCR test showed that the canine coronavirus had not been identified anywhere else. Evgeniy Kalinovskiy/Alamy Stock Photo

No evidence of onward spread

Was canine coronavirus responsible for the pneumonia in the patients? At the moment, we simply can’t tell. Seven out of eight patients were simultaneously infected with another virus, either adenovirus, influenza or parainfluenza virus. We know that all of these viruses can cause pneumonia by themselves, so it is more likely that these were responsible for the disease. We can say there is an association between pneumonia and canine coronavirus in these patients, but we can’t say it is the cause.

There have been concerns that the canine coronavirus identified in these Malaysian patients could spread from person to person, resulting in a wider outbreak. What many headlines don’t clarify is that these human infections actually occurred in 2017 and 2018. This makes the likelihood of a canine coronavirus outbreak from this source even lower as there is no evidence of onward spread in the intervening three to four years.

As coronaviruses have become the centre of attention and we search for related viruses, we are inevitably going to find more positive samples in unexpected places. The vast majority of these will be of academic interest only, and need not raise alarm. However, it is critical that surveillance for new coronaviruses continues and expands so that we have the best possible chance of identifying significant cross-species jumps in the future.

About The Author

Sarah L Caddy, Clinical Research Fellow in Viral Immunology and Veterinary Surgeon, University of Cambridge

This Article Originally Appeared On The Conversation

Sunday, 23 May 2021 08:15

We sometimes need to use antibiotics to treat sick animals, but taking advantage of opportunities to reduce antibiotics use could benefit everyone

Thursday, 27 May 2021 05:24

Life, by its very nature is … alive! Because it is alive, it is not just responding in a set, mechanical way, but rather it is responsive to what is needed and helpful and useful. Cells might...

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 08:57

Replenishing antioxidants in the body may help protect against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 16:15

In my blog posts, free resources, and courses, I talk a lot about the things that we can do to support and develop our inborn, natural interspecies communication abilities. In this post, I...

Monday, 07 June 2021 08:07

Injury to the adult brain is all too common. A brain injury will often show up on brain scans as a well-defined area of damage. But often the changes to the brain extend far beyond the visible...

Thursday, 27 July 2023 22:59

Loneliness can profoundly impact our physical and emotional health, and a new study from Tulane University has shed light on its significant role in the development of cardiovascular disease among...

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.