12 March 2020

Virologists monitor which coronaviruses that occur in Danish animals

Virus

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Statens Serum Institut (SSI) have mapped the different coronaviruses that occur in Danish animals. They emphasise that these viruses are harmless to humans.

Researchers emphasize that neither pets nor production animals appear to play any role in the spread of COVID-19 disease.

The word 'coronavirus' is currently making headlines in the global media. But coronavirus is a diverse group of viruses which may just as well cause the common cold or affect living creatures that are completely different from humans.

FACTS: Coronavirus

  • Coronavirus belongs to a diverse group of enveloped RNA viruses.
  • The virus particles are 95-190 nm in size and thus large compared to other groups of viruses.
  • Coronavirus is characterised by so-called ‘spikes’ on the surface that make its outline look like a garland or crown. Hence the name corona, which in Latin means crown.
  • Coronavirus infects many different types of birds and mammals as well as humans. Some coronaviruses may cause serious illness.
  • However, many coronaviruses are relatively harmless. Thus, coronavirus is the most common cause of the common cold.

Read more in ‘Dansk Veterinærtidsskrift’

In a new article in the journal ‘Dansk Veterinærtidsskrift’ (Danish text), researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Statens Serum Institut (SSI) have mapped different types of coronaviruses in Denmark. Including viruses that occur in wild animals, industrial animals and pets.

Thus, there are certain coronaviruses that affect bats, pigs, horses, cows, dogs, cats, mink and birds, respectively. Some types may give transient symptoms, while others may cause serious illness in the individual animal.

Host-specific viruses

 ‘There are a number of different coronaviruses in industrial animals and pets in Denmark. These viruses are host-specific, so that, for example, “Porcine Respiratory Coronavirus” only infects pigs, and “Feline Coronavirus” only infects cats’, says Professor Anette Bøtner of the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, who is also Head of Section at SSI.

‘Coronaviruses have a tendency to change in the form of, for example, mutations or recombinations in the genetic material. Therefore, it is important to monitor the evolution among these viruses’, she adds.

There is currently no evidence that neither pets nor industrial animals play any role in connection with the spread of COVID-19

Anette Bøtner, Professor and Head of Section

As an example, Anette Bøtner points to 'Porcine Respiratory Coronavirus' that emerged due to a change in the genetic material of another coronavirus that also infects pigs. That change in the genetic material meant that the virus changed from being an intestinal virus to a virus that attacked the respiratory tract.

However, the Professor, who co-authored the article in ‘Dansk Veterinærtidsskrift’, emphasises that people in Denmark should not be intimidated by the occurrence of coronavirus in Danish animals:

‘There is currently no evidence that neither pets nor industrial animals play any role in connection with the spread of COVID-19’.

See the table and read the article in ‘Dansk Veterinærtidsskrift’ (Danish text).

Contact

Anette Bøtner, Professor at the University of Copenhagen and Head of Section at SSI
(+45) 23363274
aneb@sund.ku.dk / abot@ssi.dk