Human-infecting coronaviruses (CoVs), such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, are thought to emerge from circulating bat CoVs. To test the emergence potential of SARS-like CoVs currently present in bats, Menachery et al. selected the bat CoV SHC014 (which metagenomics studies identified as a close relative to the epidemic SARS strains) and cloned its spike protein (which mediates viral attachment to host cells) into a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone. The chimeric virus could replicate inside human cell lines and was capable of replicating in mouse lungs. Importantly, currently available therapeutics (monoclonal antibodies and vaccines) failed to protect the mice from viral infection. Finally, the authors synthesized a full-length SHC014 CoV, which was capable of replicating in human cells. These data suggest that CoVs currently circulating in bats have the potential for human emergence.
Menachery, V. D. et al. A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence. Nat. Med. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.3985 (2015)
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Nunes-Alves, C. The next SARS?. Nat Rev Microbiol 14, 3 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro.2015.17