A study has said a new type of coronavirus believed to have originated in dogs was detected among patients hospitalized with pneumonia in 2017-2018, and may be the 8th unique coronavirus known to cause disease in humans if it is confirmed as a pathogen.
Researchers in the study, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday, noted that their outcomes highlighted the public health threat of coronaviruses stemming from animals.
The researchers added that they had tested nasal swab samples taken from 301 pneumonia patients at a hospital in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak. Eight of the samples, mostly from children under 5 years old, came back positive for a canine coronavirus, they said.
Further genomic sequencing found that the new strain, named CCoV-HuPn-2018, shared characteristics of other coronaviruses known to have infected pigs and cats but was mostly similar to one that is known to have infected dogs.
It also contained a genetic deletion, or mutation, that was not found in any known canine coronaviruses but was present in human strains such as SARS-COV and SARS-COV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. The source of the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus itself, whether animal or other, is still unclear.
The study’s authors said the findings indicated that the virus likely recently jumped from animals to humans, but added that more studies were needed to determine whether it can be transmitted between people.
It was unclear whether the virus could make people sick, they said, pointing out that it was possible it was merely “carried” in the patient’s airways without causing disease.