Researchers have shown in lab experiments that a virus recently discovered in pigs can jump to humans.
But what they don’t know is whether it can make that jump outside of lab conditions and, if it does, what it means for human health.
The worrisome part is that this virus is similar to SARS which touched off a panic when it spread to Toronto and other places around the world.
The virus in question is porcine deltacoronavirus and the recent research was performed at The Ohio State University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. And published online in the journal PNAS.
Porcine deltacoronavirus was first identified in 2012 in pigs in China, but it was not associated with clinical disease. It was first detected in the United States in 2014 during a diarrhea outbreak in Ohio pigs, and has since been detected in various countries.
Young, infected pigs can experience acute diarrhea and vomiting; and the disease can be fatal. As of yet, no human cases have been documented, but scientists are concerned about the possibility.
“Before it was found in pigs – including in the Ohio outbreak – it had only been found in various birds,” said study senior author Linda Saif, an investigator in Ohio State’s Food Animal Health Research Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), in Wooster.
“We’re very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans,” said Saif, a distinguished university professor of veterinary preventive medicine.
Emergence of the virus is especially worrisome to veterinary and public-health experts because of its similarity to the life-threating viruses responsible for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks.