Scientists discover new coronavirus commonly found in rodents

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Swedish scientists found that a new coronavirus has been discovered in red-backed voles, which are small, stocky rodents that look like field mice, reports Indo-Asian News Service (IANS). 

Quoting the scientists from Uppsala University’s Zoonosis Science Center, IANS reported that a study of roughly 260 bank voles caught around Grimso in Orebro County, Sweden, demonstrates that the virus is well established in red-backed voles.

Their finding has been published in the journal Viruses. “Between 2015 and 2017, we consistently found what we have called the ‘Grimso Virus’ in 3.4 percent of these voles, which would suggest that the virus is widespread and common in Sweden’s bank voles,” said Ake Lundkvist, Professor in virology and head of the Centre.

The bank vole (Myodes glareolus) is one of Europe’s most common rodents. Previous studies have found several coronaviruses circulating amongst animals in countries like the UK, Poland, France and Germany.

“We still do not know what potential threats the Grimso Virus may pose to public health. However, based on our observations and previous coronaviruses identified among bank voles, there is good reason to continue monitoring the coronavirus amongst wild rodents,” said Lundkvist. 

As per the report, the team of scientists mapped zoonotic viruses to increase the understanding of the interaction between viruses and host animals. Unlike the SARS-CoV and MERS coronaviruses that originate in bats, seasonal coronaviruses, such as HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1, appear to have spread to humans from rodents like rats, mice and voles.

Using an RNA sequencing method, the team identified a new coronavirus known as the a Grimso Virus’ belonging to the betacoronavirus family that also includes SARS-CoV, MERS and SARS-CoV-2. (IANS)

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