Baric’s lab worked with Caitlin Edwards, a research specialist and master of public health student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Edwards tested several types of cells by infecting them with a synthetic form of SADS-CoV to understand just how high the risk of cross-species contamination could be.
According to the results, a wide range of mammalian cells, including primary human lung and intestinal cells, are susceptible to infection. SADS-CoV showed a higher rate of growth in intestinal cells found in the human gut, unlike SARS-CoV-2, which primarily infects lung cells, Edwards found.
Although cross-protective herd immunity often prevents humans from contracting many coronaviruses found in animals, Edwards suggests humans have not yet developed an immunity to SADS-CoV.
“SADS-CoV is derived from bat coronaviruses called HKU2, which is a heterogenous group of viruses with a worldwide distribution,” Edwards said. “It is impossible to predict if this virus, or a closely related HKU2 bat strain, could emerge and infect human populations. However, the broad host range of SADS-CoV, coupled with an ability to replicate in primary human lung and enteric cells, demonstrates potential risk for future emergence events in human and animal populations.”