Review Article

Zoonotic origins and animal hosts of coronaviruses causing human disease pandemics: A review

Abdalla A. Latif, Samson Mukaratirwa
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 87, No 1 | a1895 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v87i1.1895 | © 2020 Abdalla A. Latif | This work is licensed under CC Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0
Submitted: 21 July 2020 | Published: 21 December 2020

About the author(s)

Abdalla A. Latif, School of Life Sciences, College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban, South Africa
Samson Mukaratirwa, School of Life Sciences, College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban, South Africa; and, One Health Centre for Zoonoses and Tropical Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, Ross University, St Kitts, Basseterre, West Indies


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Abstract

The first known severe disease caused by a coronavirus (CoV) in humans emerged with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China, which killed 774 people during its 2002/2003 outbreak. The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was the second human fatal disease, which started in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and resulted in 858 fatalities. In December 2019, a new virus, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), originating from China, began generating headlines worldwide because of the unprecedented speed of its transmission; 5.2 million people were infected and 338 480 had been reported dead from December 2019 to May 2020. These human coronaviruses are believed to have an animal origin and had reached humans through species jump. Coronaviruses are well known for their high frequency of recombination and high mutation rates, allowing them to adapt to new hosts and ecological niches. This review summarises existing information on what is currently known on the role of wild and domesticated animals and discussions on whether they are the natural reservoir/amplifiers hosts or incidental hosts of CoVs. Results of experimental infection and transmission using different wild, domesticated and pet animals are also reviewed. The need for a One Health approach in implementing measures and practices is highlighted to improve human health and reduce the emergence of pandemics from these zoonotic viruses.

Keywords

coronaviruses; humans; Zoonosis; animal hosts; one health

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