From SARS to SADS: EIDs caused by Bat Coronaviruses Linfa WANG Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore
The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in southern China in 2002 heralded two new frontiers in emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). Firstly, it demonstrated that coronaviruses are capable of causing fatal diseases in humans. Secondly, the identification of bats as the reservoir for SARS-related coronaviruses, and likely origin of SARS-CoV firmly established bats as an important source of highly lethal zoonotic viruses that include Hendra, Nipah, Ebola and Marburg viruses.
Recently, we reported a series of fatal swine disease outbreaks in Guangdong Province, China, approximately 100 km from the location of the purported index case of SARS. Most strikingly, we found that the causative agent for this swine acute diarrhea syndrome (SADS) is a novel HKU2-related coronavirus which is 98.48% identical in genome sequence to a bat coronavirus we detected in 2016 from a bat cave in the vicinity of the index pig farm. This new virus (SADS-CoV) originated from the same genus of horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus) as SARS-CoV.
Comparing the responses to the two outbreaks almost 15 years apart, it is clear that there has been great improvement in our EID preparedness in response to bat-borne virus outbreaks. Our experience highlighted the value of proactive viral discovery in wildlife, and targeted surveillance in response to an emerging infectious disease event. It also demonstrates that by using modern technological platforms such as NGS, LIPS serology and phylogenic analysis, key experiments that traditionally rely on isolation of live virus can be performed rapidly prior to virus isolation.
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