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Animal studies and Covid-19 origins

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Animal experiments, cell studies and computational models are being used by researchers around the world to find the origins of the current pandemic.

An article in Nature looks at the various studies underway that may help to understand how the coronavirus develops, what other animal species are susceptible to infection and the likely pattern of mutation in the virus.

Currently a team at the CAS Institute of Microbiology, Beijing, China, plans to introduce RATG13 – a genome found in bats that is almost identical to SARS-CoV-2 – into bats, cats, monkeys and pigs, to study mutations.

Another group from the University of Hong Kong found that the virus replicates well in organoids - 3D tissue culture that mimics in vivo organs - grown from intestinal stem cells of Chinese horseshoe bats.

Meanwhile, a study at University College London, UK, modelled the structure of ACE2 - the receptor that allows the virus to infect and destroy our cells - from more than 215 vertebrates.

This found that the receptor in sheep, chimpanzees and gorillas, engages with the protein on the surface of the virus, which suggests that these animals might be susceptible to infection.

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