The researchers found the coronaviruses traits that allow to predict their risk in the case of “jumping” from the primary host to humans. The genomes of low-risk strains and their families differ from families of SARS, and MERS at 11 sites, six of which are located in the sequences of genes in S – and N-proteins. Preprint posted to the website biorxiv.org.
To date, seven strains of infectious for human coronaviruses. Four of them have a limited distribution area and are relatively harmless, and the other three SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV and MERS 2 — provoked outbreaks of different scales with the mass deaths. The researchers compared the genomes of these viruses and find out which areas are important for the high pathogenicity of the virus. This question was repeatedly raised: we already know what features distinguish the genome of SARS-CoV-2 apart from other coronaviruses (to do this, its genome compared with all the others) and what sequences are important for jumping SARS and MERS from animals to human (it compared the genomes of viruses affecting humans and their closest relatives in the animal).
New work offers a look at the same data from a different angle. SARS, MERS and related animal viruses form a separate family, and a group of researchers under the leadership Kugene Kunin (Evgene Koonin) from NCBI to find out what this family is different from others, unable to cause such dangerous diseases.