Why Covid-19 infect only some animals not others?

'2020'- A year that will be remembered for decades now due to a pandemic that changed many lives. The virus that came into the limelight this year named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is said to be spread through bats or pangolins and infects human beings. Previously, studies found that some domestic animals were susceptible to COVID-19 whereas others like chickens, pigs were not. Later it was also reported by a zoo that a tiger was COVID positive. So, here one doubt arises as that why some animals are immune to this virus while others are not.

João Rodrigues and his team from Stanford University, California, researched this and their findings suggest that the reason for this selective infection lies in the difference in the structure of the protein that is found on the surface of the animal cells. We don’t know yet that all animals are infected by SARS-COV-2, but some animals like dogs, cat’s and some other mammals are infected by SARS-COV-2. Some reports are there that animals are infected with this virus worldwide.

  • Including the United States, some other countries are infected by this virus. And research suggests that after comes in contact with a person who is infected with covid-19, these pets also suffer from this virus.

Used computational simulation methods to analyze the 3D interactions of the SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein with the ACE2 (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2) receptor protein that is present on the surface of an animal cell. They found that in some animals the ACE2 receptor fits perfectly with the viral protein, including humans making them more susceptible. The reason behind this is the presence of some unique structural features in the ACE2 receptor found on the cells of those susceptible organisms. Those species that are immune to this virus basically lack these unique features in their ACE2 receptor. This safeguards their cells from the invading virus as the spike protein cannot interact tightly with the receptor hence stopping the virus to enter and infect the cells.

This research can help other researchers to develop strategies or therapeutics by blocking this interaction of the viral protein with the human receptor. This may also guide scientists to study the infection process from one species to the host via some carrier organism and help us to prevent future such outbreaks of diseases. ​


Insights on the cross-species transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from structural modeling Rodrigues JPGLM, Barrera-Vilarmau S, M. C. Teixeira J, Sorokina M, Seckel E, et al. (2020) Insights on the cross-species transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from structural modeling. PLOS Computational Biology 16(12): e1008449.


Blog author: Priyanka Singh

Blog reviewer: Vibhawari Rajendra Lavane


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