A group of scientists has come across a new type of coronavirus which originated in dogs and can also infect humans.
The pathogen has been around since 2018 and is the eighth coronavirus known to have migrated from animals to humans.
However, right now it is not clear whether this coronavirus is as dangerous as SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19 infection. Scientists who discovered this new type of coronavirus have stated that they don't see another pandemic being caused by this virus, according to The Daily Mail.
So far, eight people in Malaysia have been hospitalised after being infected with this new type of coronavirus. These include seven children, the youngest among them being just five-and-a-half months old. One of the hospitalised patients had developed pneumonia. All patients successfully recovered from the virus and were discharged after four to six days, following oxygen therapy.
This new type of coronavirus has been dubbed CCoV-HuPn-2018 by researchers at Duke University and Ohio State University.
Scientists believe that CCoV-HuPn-2018 was first transferred to humans via dogs, similar to how it is suspected that SARS-CoV-2 was transferred to humans from bats.
It is also known that other coronaviruses such as Sars and Mers were also transmitted to humans from animals. However, this latest discovery suggests that coronavirus can be transferred to humans via domestic pets, which is dangerous.
Experts who published the study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases have stated that their research could revolutionise how respiratory diseases are identified before they become a full-blown pandemic. The research team in the US used the same molecular diagnostic tool they had created to detect COVID, according to the news website.
Project leader Professor Gregory Gray, of Duke University, analysed nasal swabs of 301 people who were treated in a hospital in Sarawak, East Malaysia in 2018. By reconstructing the genome of the virus, the researchers were able to identify that the virus came from a dog. "There are probably multiple canine coronaviruses circulating and spilling over into humans that we don't know about," said Gray. "Many of those spillovers are dead ends, they don't ever leave that first human host," he added.
Emphasising the need for better surveillance, Gray said, "These pathogens don't just cause a pandemic overnight, it takes many years for them to adapt to the human immune system and cause infection, and then to become efficient in human-to-human transmission. We need to look for these pathogens and detect them early".
The scientists plan to further study the CCoV-HuPn-2018 virus in order to determine how harmful it is or could potentially become.