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Covid-19 not just a threat to humans but many animals too

CAPE TOWN – A recent study from the University of California found that Covid-19 threatens the lives of various mammal species and not just humans.

The team of researches consisted of international scientists who used genomic analysis to compare the human’s main coronavirus receptors, ACE2 -angiotensin-converting enzyme-2, in 410 vertebrate species, which includes 252 mammals, to study the conservation of ACE2 and its potential to be used as a receptor by SARS-CoV-2.

ACE2 is an enzyme found throughout the body, some found in the nose, throat and lungs which SARS-CoV-2 binds to gaining access to the cells then leading to infection.

The team designed a score-based test where conservation properties of 25 amino acids collected which is important in the binding process with the system help determine the success of the receptor binding between ACE2 and SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

“Animals with all 25 amino acid residues matching the human protein are predicted to be at the highest risk for contracting SARS-CoV-2 via ACE2,” said Joana Damas, first author for the paper and a postdoctoral research associate at UC Davis.

“The risk is predicted to decrease the more the species’ ACE2 binding residues differ from humans,” Damas added.

Around 40 percent of the species at risk of SARS-CoV-2 are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as ‘threatened’ leading to the concern of vulnerability towards the human-to-animal transmission.

“The data provide an important starting point for identifying vulnerable and threatened animal populations at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We hope it inspires practices that protect both animal and human health during the pandemic,” said Harris Lewin, lead author for the study and a distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis.

The researchers hope that their findings may assist the conservation of animals in their natural habitats and in human care with further protection during the pandemic and may provide guidance on Covid-19 models and plans during these trying times.


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