MERS-related CoVs in hedgehogs from Hubei Province, China.One Health. 2021 Dec; 13:100332.OH
The emerging coronavirus diseases such as COVID-19, MERS, and SARS indicated that animal coronaviruses (CoVs) spillover to humans are a huge threat to public health. Therefore, we needed to understand the CoVs carried by various animals. Wild hedgehogs were collected from rural areas in Wuhan and Xianning cities in Hubei Province for analysis of CoVs. PCR results showed that 5 out of 51 (9.8%) hedgehogs (Erinaceus amurensis) were positive to CoVs in Hubei Province with 3 samples from Wuhan City and 2 samples from Xianning City. Phylogenetic analysis based on the partial sequence of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase showed that the CoVs from hedgehogs are classified into Merbecovirus of the genus Betacoronavirus; the hedgehog CoVs formed a phylogenetic sister cluster with human MERS-CoVs and bat MERS-related CoVs. Among the 12 most critical residues of receptor binding domain in MERS-CoV for binding human Dipeptidyl peptidase 4, 3 residuals were conserved between the hedgehog MERS-related CoV obtained in this study and the human MERS-CoV. We concluded that hedgehogs from Hubei Province carried MERS-related CoVs, indicating that hedgehogs might be important in the evolution and transmission of MERS-CoVs, and continuous surveillance of CoVs in hedgehogs was important.