New strain of coronavirus casts shadow on piggeries now 

Researchers warn that the virus has the potential to wreak economic havoc in countries that rely on the pork industry.

Published: 29th October 2020 06:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2020 02:06 PM   |  A+A-

Pork lovers worldwide are wincing at prices that have jumped by up to 40 percent as China's struggle to stamp out African swine fever in its vast pig herds sends shockwaves through global meat markets. (Photo | AP)

For representational purposes. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: While the world is still coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study has found that another infection, called Swine Acute Diarrhoea Syndrome Coronavirus (SADS-CoV) is rearing its head. Researchers warn that the virus has the potential to wreak economic havoc in countries that rely on the pork industry.

New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows the strain of coronavirus, called SADS-CoV, affects pigs and is capable of spreading to humans, with great negative impact. The virus, which emerged from bats, was discovered in 2016 and has infected herds of pigs in China. The state’s pork industry seems to have little knowledge about this new virus.

“Business is already affected due to Covid-19, especially in Dakshina Kannada, where people are dependent on the pork industry. We bore heavy loss due to hotels and industries shutting down. We haven’t seen any new virus affecting our piglets,” said Nagraja B N of Famous Pig Farm in Dakshina Kannada.

Meanwhile, primary researcher of the recently published paper, Ralph Baric, professor of epidemiology at UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health said, “While many investigators focus on the emergent potential of beta coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, the alpha coronaviruses may prove equally prominent — if not greater — concerns to human health, given their potential to rapidly jump between species.” 

SADS-CoV shows a higher rate of growth in intestinal cells in the human gut, unlike SARS-CoV-2, which primarily infects lung cells, he said. 

Though no cases of human infection have been found yet, researchers warn countries to be prepared for the possibility.

A senior epidemiologist in the state said on condition of anonymity,

“Emerging coronaviruses threaten livestock as well as humans. We need more research to prevent and handle outbreaks.” 

Harish Kumar of Sri Maruti Piggery Farm in Doddaballapura told TNIE, “We have about 100 pigs, we have stopped breeding and kept only cutting facilities open due to Covid. Once we faced problems due to H1N1, every now and then there are rumours of diseases,” he said.

Pigs are given three vaccinations a year: for swine fever, haemorrhagic septicemia, and foot and mouth disease, Kumar said. However, a senior virologist said this is an experimental study.

“There are several zoonotic viruses that can infect human cells. That doesn’t necessarily mean they cause a pandemic, just because it’s a coronavirus.” Dr BN Shivaram, Director, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services, said, “We have our research institute in Hebbal and also several piggery farms. We have not come across any diseases in piglets till now. There is no need to panic.”

As per the research study, broad-spectrum antiviral remdesivir, which is currently used to treat Covid-19, has shown robust activity against SADS-CoV.

The published paper says, “This means it can be a potential treatment option if the SADS-CoV outbreak in humans takes place.”

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