PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Researchers say they have identified a new pig virus that could be a threat to humans.
The new pig virus was found to easily be able to find its way into laboratory-cultured cells of people and other species, a discovery that raises concerns about potential outbreaks in humans.
Researchers at The Ohio State University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands collaborated to better understand the new virus identified as porcine deltacoronavirus.
Their study appears online in the journal PNAS.
Scientists say the virus was first discovered in pigs in China in 2012 but it was not associated with the disease.
It was first detected in the United States in 2014 during a diarrhea outbreak in Ohio pigs and has now since been detected in other countries.
Scientists say the pigs infected experience acute diarrhea and vomiting and can be fatal.
“We’re very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans,” said Linda Saif, an investigator in Ohio State’s Food Animal Health Research Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
There have been no human cases documented but scientists are concerned because of the virus’ similarity to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome.)
Saif says for now the only known infection in humans and other species is in a laboratory using cultured cells.
The virus was also able to bind to receptors in cells from cats and chickens.
Scientists say the next step is understanding the virus and its potential for human infection and looking for antibodies in the blood that would serve as evidence that the pig virus has already infected people.