Recently published in the Journal of General Virology, Drs. Arinjay Banerjee and Karen Mossman publish a critical paper in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, investigating the possibilities of SARS-CoV-2 virus recombination with concurrently circulating and highly pathogenic MERS-CoV virus. Similar to SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV also causes severe acute respiratory distress, however with a significantly higher fatality rate. This poses a question, whether recombination during a coinfection in areas of coincidence between the two viruses could produce a highly infectious and fatal novel virus. Recombination of other viruses, specifically influenza have been shown to drive severe flu seasons including the 2009 H1N1 Influenza pandemic. In a computational analysis, Drs. Banerjee and Mossman assess that recombination would likely occur in the gastrointestinal tract where their respective receptors are both expressed, and the viruses express the required sequences that would facilitate recombination. This critical finding serves as a caution for scientists and public health institutes, specifically in areas where both viruses circulate, to survey possible recombination, and to proceed with caution to limit possibility of coinfection in patients. At the current moment, vaccines have not been produced for either viruses.
Read a copy of the full paper here.