Genomic analysis reveals many animal species may be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection
Humans are not the only species facing a potential threat from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.
An international team of scientists used genomic analysis to compare the main cellular receptor for the virus in humans -- angiotensin converting enzyme-2, or ACE2 -- in 410 different species of vertebrates, including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
ACE2 is normally found on many different types of cells and tissues, including epithelial cells in the nose, mouth and lungs. In humans, 25 amino acids of the ACE2 protein are important for the virus to bind and gain entry into cells.
The researchers used these 25 amino acid sequences of the ACE2 protein, and modeling of its predicted protein structure together with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, to evaluate how many of these amino acids are found in the ACE2 protein of the different species.
"Animals with all 25 amino acid residues matching the human protein are predicted to be at the highest risk for contracting SARS-CoV-2 via ACE2," said Joana Damas, first author for the paper and a postdoctoral research associate at UC Davis. "The risk is predicted to decrease the more the species' ACE2 binding residues differ from humans."