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Isolation and Characterization of 2019-nCoV-like Coronavirus from Malayan Pangolins

By Kangpeng Xiao, Junqiong Zhai, Yaoyu Feng, Niu Zhou, Xu Zhang, Jie-Jian Zou, Na Li, Yaqiong Guo, Xiaobing Li, Xuejuan Shen, Zhipeng Zhang, Fanfan Shu, Wanyi Huang, Yu Li, Ziding Zhang, Rui-Ai Chen, Ya-Jiang Wu, Shi-Ming Peng, Mian Huang, Wei-Jun Xie, Qin-Hui Cai, Fang-Hui Hou, Yahong Liu, Wu Chen, Lihua Xiao, Yongyi Shen

Posted 20 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.17.951335

The outbreak of 2019-nCoV in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019 poses unprecedent public health challenges to both China and the rest world. The new coronavirus shares high sequence identity to SARS-CoV and a newly identified bat coronavirus. While bats may be the reservoir host for various coronaviruses, whether 2019-nCoV has other hosts is still ambiguous. In this study, one coronavirus isolated from Malayan pangolins showed 100%, 98.2%, 96.7% and 90.4% amino acid identity with 2019-nCoV in the E, M, N and S genes, respectively. In particular, the receptor-binding domain of the S protein of the Pangolin-CoV is virtually identical to that of 2019-nCoV, with one amino acid difference. Comparison of available genomes suggests 2019-nCoV might have originated from the recombination of a Pangolin-CoV-like virus with a Bat-CoV-RaTG13-like virus. Infected pangolins showed clinical signs and histopathological changes, and the circulating antibodies reacted with the S protein of 2019-nCoV. The isolation of a coronavirus that is highly related to 2019-nCoV in the pangolins suggests that these animals have the potential to act as the intermediate host of 2019-nCoV. The newly identified coronavirus in the most-trafficked mammal could represent a continuous threat to public health if wildlife trade is not effectively controlled.

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