Can dogs sniff out coronavirus? Photograph:( Reuters )
Gray’s team found out traces of a canine coronavirus in children who were hospitalised for pneumonia in 2017 and 2018, in Malaysia
A group of researchers from Malaysia have found traces of canine coronavirus in local patients and revealed that the virus has been understudied for many years and was being passed along as a common cold.
Professor Gregory Gray from Duke University's Global Health Institute asked his students to develop a pan-species test for coronavirus that could help identify the virus and assist in preventing another such event in the future.
While conducting their research, Gray’s team found out traces of a canine coronavirus in children who were hospitalised for pneumonia in 2017 and 2018, in Malaysia.
After studying the genetic makeup of the said virus, the researchers believe it is unlikely that this virus is currently circulating between humans, but they also believe that this canine virus is what caused the illness of the patients in question.
"What we're advocating for... is more application of pan-species diagnostics to look for five different viral families we think are the most problematic in causing epidemics in humans," Gray told news agency, AFP.
Gray's student-scholar, Lishan Xiu, conducted his research to find the alignment of the genetic sequences of the various family members of the virus. The pan-species coronavirus test was then performed on swab samples collected from pneumonia patients of hospitals in Sarawak, Malaysia.
Xiu found that out of 301 collected samples, nearly eight children had traces of the canine virus.
To be sure about their findings, Gray’s team formed a partnership with a virologist Anastasia Vlasova at Ohio State University, who grew more of the virus and sequenced its entire genome. Out of this experiment, a virus, called CCoV-HuPn-2018, was found which also had traces of feline and swine components, in addition to its canine origin.
Gray feels this small study can help identify bigger problems and can help avert future epidemics.
"If we set up surveillance of pig workers, poultry workers, cattle workers, we're going to be amazed at what their immune systems are being challenged with," Gray said. "That doesn't mean that they're going to be the match that lights the next pandemic, but they would be a good resource to study."
(With inputs from agencies)