Pangolin coronavirus can infect humans

Although SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have evolved from the bat coronavirus, its exact evolutionary path is still

remains a mystery.Uncovering its story is challenging, as there are likely many undiscovered bat coronaviruses. Due to the differences between the bat coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2, it is believed that it could have been transmitted to humans through at least one other species.

In his study published in NatureCommunications, the scientists compared the structures of the spike proteins found in SARS-CoV-2, the most similar currently identified RaTG13 bat coronavirus, and a coronavirus isolated from Malay pangolins that were seized by authorities after they were smuggled into China. It turned out that the pangolin virus is able to bind to receptors of both pangolin and humans. This is in contrast to the bats coronavirus, which cannot effectively bind to human or pangolin receptors.

By checking if the spike protein of a given virusbind to cell receptors of different species, we can see if a virus can infect this species in theory. We have shown two key points. First, this bat virus is unlikely to infect the dinosaurs. And secondly, the pangolin virus can potentially infect humans.

Anthony Wrobel, co-lead author of the article

The team used cryoelectron microscopy to detail the structure of the spike protein of the coronavirus pangolin, which is responsible for binding and infecting cells.

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