Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; Sea Word, San Diego, CA; and the University of California at Davis have determined a never before seen virus found in the liver of a beluga whale to be a new strain of the coronavirus.
With emerging infectious diseases on the rise, it is now estimated that 75% derive from zoonotic sources. This being the case, health officials are now looking to zoological parks and aquariums for emerging virus surveillance.
ViroChip is a panviral DNA testing method capable of detecting thousands of known viruses as well as unknown viruses linked to previously identified viral families. In the study a ViroChip was used to evaluate the liver tissue of a male captive-born beluga whale for viruses following his death after a short illness characterized by pulmonary disease and acute liver failure.
Results revealed a highly divergent novel coronavirus deemed most similar to group 3 coronaviruses. The virus has been tentatively named coronavirus SW1.
"We have used a ViroChip to identify a novel coronavirus directly from primary animal tissues," say the researchers. "Furthermore, the identification of a previously unrecognized virus in a captive animal underscores the vast diversity of viruses that remains unexplored in animals."
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