SARS-like virus seems to cause deep lung infection

April 3, 2013 by Kerry Sheridan,

A new and deadly virus that has killed 11 of the 17 patients treated for it in the Middle East and Britain appears to cause an infection deep in the lungs, researchers said Wednesday.

Six research monkeys infected with novel human coronavirus were found to quickly develop pneumonia, according to a letter by National Institutes of Health experts in the New England Journal of Medicine.

After being exposed to samples of the virus, the rhesus macaques fell ill within 24 hours, with symptoms including elevated temperature, lack of appetite, coughing and fast breathing.

The macaques' illnesses appeared to last a few days before clinical symptoms went away. After euthanizing the monkeys, scientists found bright red lesions and darker purple areas of pulmonary inflammation in their lungs.

"We actually see that it replicates deep down in the lungs of the monkeys, which potentially could explain the disease in humans better," researcher Vincent Munster of the NIH/National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana told AFP in a phone interview.

"This kind of explains why this virus potentially could be fatal. If it replicates deep down in the lungs, eventually it could destroy the lungs' ability to take up oxygen and eventually cause severe disease," Munster added.

Kidney failure has been seen in people who have died of the disease, which was first detected last year.

The animal research is a "first step toward getting to know what the virus does in humans" and should help experts narrow down vaccine strategies and antiviral options for intervention, he told AFP.

The letter to the New England Journal of Medicine is the first to describe animal research on the virus. Previous attempts to study it in hamsters were of little use, Munster said.

But many questions remain about the virus, which seems to resemble Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—which erupted in Southeast Asia a decade ago—and bird flu in the way it affects the lungs.

It is formally called hCoV-EMC/2012, which stands for human coronavirus-Erasmus Medical Centre, after the Dutch health institution that identified it.

The virus sample provided to researchers at the Rocky Mountain lab by Erasmus for the monkey research did not appear to cause the severe type of disease that has been seen in humans, Munster said.

That could indicate that there are more mild cases in circulation among humans, or it could reflect a difference in the way primates and humans react to the infection.

Current research has been limited to studying cases in people who have been hospitalized with severe illness.

The World Health Organization reported in late March that a 73-year-old man from the United Arab Emirates had become the 11th fatality from novel coronavirus. The WHO has documented a total of 17 cases globally.

Also last month, scientists reported in Nature magazine that the virus appears to infect the body via a docking point in lung cells, and suggested bats may be a natural reservoir for it.

Researchers believe the virus can be transmitted from human to human, though such occurrences appear to be uncommon.

It remains unknown whether the disease is truly rare and acute, or if it may be more abundant but mild so as to escape detection most of the time.

Explore further: WHO: Two more cases of new virus in Jordan (Update)

More information: Munster et al. Novel Human Coronavirus Causes Pneumonia in a Macaque Model Resembling Human Disease. New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1215691 (2013).

Related Stories

WHO: Two more cases of new virus in Jordan (Update)

November 30, 2012
International health officials have confirmed two more fatal cases of a mysterious respiratory virus in the Middle East.

Combating the deathly Coronavirus

March 15, 2013
Scientists all over the world are on a quest for an antidote since the first patient died from the new coronavirus in summer 2012. Infection Researchers from the German Primate Center have now identified enzymes that activate ...

Emirati man dies of SARS-linked virus in Germany (Update)

March 26, 2013
A man from the United Arab Emirates who was infected with a new SARS-related virus has died in Munich, German authorities said Tuesday.

UK patient dies from SARS-like coronavirus

February 19, 2013
(AP)—A patient being treated for a mysterious SARS-like virus has died, a British hospital said Tuesday.

Secrets of new SARS-like virus uncovered (Update)

March 13, 2013
A discovery that shows how a novel—and often fatal—virus infects cells may help fight a health threat that has recently emerged on the world stage, researchers report.

SARS-linked virus may have spread between people

February 13, 2013
(AP)—British officials say a mysterious virus related to SARS may have spread between humans, as they confirmed the 11th case worldwide of the new coronavirus in a patient who they say probably caught it from a family member.

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.