Novel coronavirus emerged from gene shuffling across bats, pangolin: Study

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: May 30, 2020, 03.46 PM(IST)

The novel coronavirus Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Understanding the origins of the novel coronavirus -- SARS-CoV-2 -- is critical for deterring future zoonosis, discovering new drugs, and developing a vaccine.

The novel coronavirus possibly emerged from a combination of genetic shuffling and evolutionary selection of genes among specific bat and pangolin viruses before it reached humans, a new research has claimed.

A team led by Duke University in North Carolina got the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. Their research showed the virus' entire receptor binding motif (RBM), a component that plays a key role in viral entry into host cells, was introduced through recombination with pangolin coronaviruses.

Understanding the origins of the novel coronavirus -- SARS-CoV-2 -- is critical for deterring future zoonosis, discovering new drugs, and developing a vaccine.

The study joins ongoing efforts to identify the source of the virus that causes COVID-19.

"Proximity of different species in a wet market setting, for example, may increase the potential for cross-species spillover infections, by enabling recombination between more distant coronaviruses and the emergence of mutations," the authors wrote.

They found evidence of strong evolutionary selection around the RBM among the bat, pangolin, and human coronaviruses they studied.

Amino acid sequences from these viruses and SARS-CoV-2 were identical or nearly identical in the regions adjacent to the RBM, suggesting that common evolutionary mechanisms shaped these distinct viral strains.

Together, evolutionary selection and frequent recombination among coronaviruses from bats, pangolins, and humans may have allowed the closely related viruses to readily jump between species, leading to the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 in humans.

This study also makes it clear that reducing or eliminating direct human contact with wild animals is critical to preventing new coronavirus zoonoses in the future.

Read in App