Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a family of positive-sense RNA viruses that infect a wide range of species from mice to Beluga whales (bwCoV-SW1). There are examples of highly pathogenic human coronaviruses that cause severe respiratory infections (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV), less pathogenic human coronaviruses human coronaviruses that usually cause minor common-cold-like symptoms in healthy adults (e.g. hCoV-229E and hCoV-NL63), pathogenic animal coronaviruses that cause significant mortality in farmed or pet animals (e.g. IBV in birds, TGEV in pigs and FIPV in cats) and coronaviruses of wild animals with unknown pathology in the host (e.g. the bat coronaviruses; btCoVs).
SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, have shown the potential of coronaviruses as important zoonotic human pathogens Both are believed to derive from recombination of btCoVs and pass to humans via an intermediate host – small mammals and camelids respectively. There is no approved treatment or vaccination for any human coronavirus in any host and the WHO has designated SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV as ‘2018 Blueprint Priority Diseases’.
Coronavirus research, therefore, has applications in animal health, human health and in prevention of transmission between different susceptible hosts. A OneVirology approach will be important for controlling and preventing current and future coronavirus outbreaks.
Our research and its impact
Research focuses on the virus: host interactions of highly pathogenic coronaviruses, in particular the interactions between the innate immune response and MERS-CoV. Very little is known about these interactions and research in this area has importance in immunology and virology as well as to identify novel targets, both host and viral, for therapeutic intervention.