Non-human primates could be highly susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2 — the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 — according to a newly published study in the scientific journal Communications Biology.
Non-human primates could be highly susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2 — the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 — according to a newly published study in the scientific journal Communications Biology, conducted by researchers at the University of Calgary and New York University. This potential risk is of concern to primatologists around the world working with wild and captive primates.
“Major actions may be be needed to limit the exposure of many primate populations to humans,” says biological anthropologist Dr. Amanda Melin, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology and lead author of the paper. Melin, pictured above, is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine.
The study predicts that apes — our closest living relatives — as well as monkeys in Africa and Asia, are at a similar risk to humans of contracting COVID-19. Meanwhile, the risk to lemurs is more variable, but some species may carry more human-like risks as well. Infection studies — where primates were given doses of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — strongly support these predictions.
“We used approaches from comparative genomics and protein-protein interaction modelling to predict a binding affinity for SARS-CoV-2 to the viral target receptor, ACE2, which is expressed on cell surfaces across the body,” says Melin.
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Image via University of Calgary.