A newly identified coronavirus may not pose a serious threat, but the finding highlights the need to monitor animal viruses more proactively, scientists say
Scientists have known for decades that coronaviruses can cause disease in dogs, but until recently there had not been any evidence that these viruses can infect humans.Credit...Alen Thien/Alamy
By Emily Anthes
May 20, 2021Updated 6:36 p.m. ET
Scientists have discovered a new canine coronavirus in a child who was hospitalized with pneumonia in Malaysia in 2018. If the virus is confirmed to be a human pathogen, it would be the eighth coronavirus, and the first canine coronavirus, known to cause disease in humans.
It is not yet clear whether this specific virus poses a serious threat to humans, the researchers stress. The study does not prove that the pneumonia was caused by the virus, which may not be capable of spreading between people. But the finding, which was published on Thursday
in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, highlights the need to more proactively search for viruses that could jump from animals into humans, the scientists said.
“I think the key message here is that these things are probably happening all over the world, where people come in contact with animals, especially intense contact, and we’re not picking them up,” said Dr. Gregory Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University who is one of the study’s authors. “We should be looking for these things. If we can catch them early and find out that these viruses are successful in the human host, then we can mitigate them before they become a pandemic virus.”