Skip to main content

Some of you may have heard about a new coronavirus isolated from humans sick with severe respiratory symptoms. I did a search and found that it was mentioned in the overnight news digest from Sept. 24, but from what I could find it has not been discussed at length on the site. Quite a bit of information has been released in the press, so I thought since this is in my general field of study, I might put together a quick diary about what is known about the virus.  

Coronaviruses are enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses that infect birds and mammals. Known human coronaviruses cause about a third of the upper respiratory infections ("colds") in humans. These infections are generally self-limiting, although occasionally they can become more severe, particularly in younger, older, or immunocompromised individuals. Coronaviruses are spread via contact with secretions or aerosol droplets from infected individuals.

What is known about the new coronavirus as of today is below the squiggly.

On June 13 a 60 year old man was admitted to a hospital in Saudi Arabia with pneumonia. He had respiratory disease symptoms for 7 days before going to the hospital. He developed acute renal failure and died on June 24. The virus was isolated by culturing on human cells, and was identified as a coronavirus using polymerase chain reaction by Ali Mohamed Zaki at the Virology Laboratory of Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. The viral RNA was further tested in the laboratory of Dr. Ron Fouchier in the Netherlands, and confirmed to be a coronavirus, and further shown to be closely related to known bat coronaviruses. The findings were posted on ProMED (Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases)-mail, which is an internet-based reporting system for disseminating information about infectious disease outbreaks, on Sept. 20.

Early in September, a 49 year old Qatari man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, was admitted to the hospital with severe respiratory illness. In the hospital he developed renal failure. He was moved by air ambulance to the UK where tests showed he was infected with a coronavirus. Sequencing of a small 250 nucleotide region of the virus he was infected with showed it was 99.5% similar (1 nucleotide change) to the virus isolated from the Saudi man. This patient is currently still in intensive care.

Phylogenetic analysis of the new coronavirus shows that it is a bat coronavirus, and is not SARS. However, because it is a bat coronavirus (as was SARS), there is some concern that it may be able to spread rapidly among humans. The World Health Organization has therefore released a case definition and issued a global alert.

As of this time, there is no evidence that the virus is spreading from human to human, and no additional cases have been reported. There was a report of 5 people in Denmark who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia with a severe respiratory disease, but these people were found to be infected with influenza. It is possible that no additional cases will be found, however, because of the severity of the disease, and our fairly recent experiences with the SARS outbreak, the authorities are likely being very proactive in attempts to prevent what could be a public health emergency. This virus may be of particular concern because of the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which, at least for now, appears to be where the virus was acquired by the two known patients.  

For more information, follow #coronavirus on Twitter and these folks:

Vincent Racaniello at the Virology Blog
Maryn McKenna at Wired

Originally posted to sciencegirl on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 01:47 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site