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Za človeka gre: Relevanca znanosti in izobraževanja / All about people: Relevance of science and education 2020

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Coronavirus infections in animals and humans

Coronaviruses (CoV) belong to Coronaviridae family, order Nidovirales. CoV are enveloped viruses with positive-stranded RNA genomes of 26-32 kb, the largest continuous RNA genomes in nature. Based on genetic analyses, coronaviruses are subdivided into four distinct genera: Alphacoronavirus, Betacoronavirus, Gammacoronavirus and Deltacoronavirus. Antigenic and genetic similarity of some individual CoVs is evident among animal and human strains. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with SARS, MERS, and new human coronavirus virus (COVID-19), identified for the first time in China in 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, pigs, cats, and bats. Since 2009 sequence analysis of highly conserved RNA dependent RNA polymerase gene have been done in several animal coronaviruses in Slovenia. All coronaviruses identified in horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) fecal samples has been genetically closely related, with 99.5 % to 100 % nucleotide identity to each other and belong to genus Betacoronavirus, closely related to SARS-like CoV cluster, sharing 85 % nucleotide identity and 95.6 % amino acid identity. First cases of clinical diarrhea in piglets were detected on a pig-fattening farm in December 2014. Using the real-time RT-PCR method, the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) was confirmed for the first time in Slovenia in January 2015. The phylogenetic comparison to some of the other complete PEDV genomes, available in GenBank, showed close relation of the Slovene PEDV strain (SLO/JH/2015, KU297956) to the strain FR/011/2015 from France, strain GER/L00719/2014 from Germany, strain BEL/15V010/2015 from Belgium and the American prototype SINDEL strain OH851 isolated in 2014. From 133 affected live cattle that were clinically suffering from respiratory disease between 2014 and 2016, 12.03 % were detected positive for bovine coronavirus (BCoV). BCoVs detected from cattle and human coronaviruses (HCoV-OC43) share 96.4%-97.1% nucleotide and 96.9%-98.5% amino acid identity demonstrating the close relationship between the Slovenian CoVs strains. Recent reports of human infections with Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) from the China which has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread in China is concerning. All coronaviruses have unique mechanism of viral replication, which resulting in high frequency of recombination and high mutation rates. That allow them to adapt to new hosts.

Ivan Toplak
University of Ljubljana, Veterinary Faculty


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