TERRIFYING new research reveals pig VIRUS poses LETHAL threat to humanity, scientists WARN
SCIENTISTS have claimed that porcine deltacoronavirus, a virus that causes illness in pigs, could pose a lethal threat to the human race after groundbreaking lab results.
Lab tests show the virus, first detected in China in 2012, moves between the cells of different species including humans.
The disease shows similarities to the deadly viruses responsible for Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) which together have caused the death of more than 1,000 people.
Professor Linda Saif, who took part in the US study at Ohio State University, said: “We’re very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans.”
When the bacteria was first detected in pigs in China, porcine deltacoronavirus was not associated with disease.
But in 2014 it was found to be the cause of a diarrhoea outbreak among pigs in Ohio, US.
Since this outbreak, the virus has shown up in pigs in various countries.
Young infected pigs experience acute diarrhoea and vomiting.
The new research, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how the virus targets a specific receptor molecule on the surface of cells lining the airways and digestive tract.
Binding to the receptor, a multifunctional enzyme called aminopeptidase N allows the virus to gain access to its host.
Lead researcher Dr Scott Kenney, from Ohio State University’s Food Animal Health Research Programme, said: “A receptor is like a lock in the door.
“If the virus can pick the lock, it can get into the cell and potentially infect the host.
“From that point, it’s just a matter of whether it can replicate within the cells and cause disease in those animals and humans.”
In the laboratory, the virus bound to the receptor not only in pigs, as expected, but also chickens, cats and humans.
So far no human is known to have been infected by porcine deltacoronavirus.
But the researchers said there are worrying similarities between the pig virus and the Sars and Mers viruses.
In 2002 and 2003, an outbreak in Sars that began in China was linked to the death of 774 people in 37 countries.
Scientists later learned that the Sars virus originated in bats before spreading to people.
The Mers virus is believed to have passed to humans from camels.
An on-going Mers outbreak in Saudi Arabia has so far been linked to more than 1,800 cases of infection and 708 deaths.