Scientists have warned that humans should brace for the emergence of a new virus that could be deadlier than Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Zika. The scientists, in a study published on March 14, 2016 edition of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled “SARS-like WIV1-CoV poised for human emergence” said outbreaks from zoonotic sources represent a threat to both human as well as the global economy. A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. The scientists are already bracing for a potential outbreak of the new SARS-like virus. They warn the new virus, called WIV1-CoV, may induce the same results in humans as SARS – starting out with flu-like symptoms and accelerating rapidly to pneumonia.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Bat SARS-like coronavirus WIV1, (Bat SL-CoV-WIV1) also sometimes called SARS-like coronavirus WIV1 that is W1V1-CoV, is a newly identified CoV isolated from Chinese rufous horseshoe bats. The discovery confirms that bats are the natural reservoir of the SARS virus. Phylogenetic analysis shows the possibility of direct transmission of SARS from bats to humans without the intermediary Chinese civets, as previously believed. The scientists say 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.
According to the researchers, the capacity of this group of viruses to jump into humans is greater than originally thought. While other adaptations may be required to produce an epidemic, several viral strains circulating in bat populations have already overcome the barrier of replication in human cells and suggest reemergence as a distinct possibility.
The researchers wrote: “Focusing on the SARS-like viruses, the results indicate that the WIV1-coronavirus (CoV) cluster has the ability to directly infect and may undergo limited transmission in human populations. However, in vivo attenuation suggests additional adaptation is required for epidemic disease. Importantly, available SARS monoclonal antibodies offered success in limiting viral infection absent from available vaccine approaches. Together, the data highlight the utility of a platform to identify and prioritize prepandemic strains harboured in animal reservoirs and document the threat posed by WIV1-CoV for emergence in human populations.”
The researchers led by Dr. Vineet Menachery of Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, said: “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 new virus is very similar to SARS – as it originates from the same Chinese horseshoe bats as SARS and also binds to the same receptor inside the human body.
SARS, which is short for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, begins with a high fever, headache and body aches. People infected with the virus develop a dry cough after two to seven days – which most frequently turned into pneumonia, according to the United States Centres for Disease Control (CDC).
The virus spreads through close person-to-person contact by respiratory droplets produced when a person sneezes or coughs.