Researchers at Uppsala University have discovered a novel coronavirus, according to a study published in the journal, Viruses.
The virus is well established in Sweden’s red-backed voles, according to their investigation of roughly 260 bank voles caught around Grimsö. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may have originated in bats, albeit this remains a mystery. Other coronaviruses, such as those found in rats, mice, and voles, are known to arise in rodents. Grimsö Virus, a new coronavirus discovered by Swedish scientists, was found in 3.4 percent of the voles examined.
“Between 2015 and 2017, we consistently found what we have called the ‘Grimsö Virus’ in 3.4 percent of these voles, which would suggest that the virus is widespread and common in Sweden’s bank voles,” says Åke Lundkvist, Professor in virology and head of the Zoonosis Science Center at Uppsala University. He led the study together with researchers Jiaxin Ling and Anishia Wasberg, a doctoral student and the first author.
Scientists are mapping zoonotic viruses in order to better understand how viruses interact with their hosts. Seasonal coronaviruses, such as HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1, appear to have propagated to humans through rodents such as rats, mice, and voles, unlike the SARS-CoV and MERS coronaviruses, which originate in bats.
The goal is to gain a better understanding of large viral epidemics and create techniques to prevent infection from transferring from animals to humans. They discovered a new coronavirus known as the ‘Grimsö Virus,’ which belongs to the beta-coronavirus family, which also includes SARS-CoV, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2, using an RNA sequencing method.
Rodents currently contain a number of zoonotic pathogens, including Hantaviruses and Tularemia, and hence play an important role in the spread of infectious diseases. Infectious diseases connected to small mammals, such as rats, have increased dramatically in recent years, and research into the ecology of these host animals is an important part of the effort to prevent future outbreaks.
One of Europe’s most prevalent rodents is the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). Several coronaviruses have been detected circulating among animals in nations such as the United Kingdom, Poland, France, and Germany in previous research.
“We still do not know what potential threats the Grimsö Virus may pose to public health. However, based on our observations and previous coronaviruses identified among bank voles, there is good reason to continue monitoring the coronavirus amongst wild rodents,” says Professor Åke Lundkvist.