Abstract

Equine coronaviruses (ECoV) are the only coronavirus known to infect horses. So far, data on ECoV infection in horses remain limited to the USA, France and Japan and its geographic distribution is not well understood. We carried out RT-PCR on 306 nasal and 315 rectal swabs and tested 243 sera for antibodies to detect coronavirus infections in apparently healthy horses in Saudi Arabia and Oman. We document evidence of infection with ECoV and HKU23 coronavirus by RT-PCR. There was no conclusive evidence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection in horses. Serological data suggest that lineage A betacoronavirus infections are commonly infecting horses in Saudi Arabia and Oman but antibody cross-reactivities between these viruses do not permit us to use serological data alone to identify which coronaviruses are causing these infections.

Authors

Hemida, M. G.;  Chu, D. K. W.;  Perera, R. A. P. M.;  Ko, R. L. W.;  So, R. T. Y.;  Ng, B. C. Y.;  Chan, S. M. S.;  Chu, S.;  Alnaeem, A. A.;  Alhammadi, M. A.;  Webby, R. J.;  Poon, L. L. M.;  Balasuriya, U. B. R.;  Peiris, M.

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  • Hemida et al.'s work on "Coronavirus infections in horses in Saudi Arabia and Oman" is a serious intent to detect crossing of known horse viruses geographically. The researchers' meticulous work both scientifically and clinically is highly commended because of the importance of the work to assess with evidence any appearances of horse viruses known in different continents in Saudi Arabia or Oman. Though the researchers found intra-species viral transmission evidence (horse-camel), but nothing serious. However, one sample was different, the one from Al Qassem whereby the horse does not have contact with other animals, though the question here is any of the persons working in the farm have been in contact with camels somewhere else, will this help transmit the virus to the horse?? The potential outcome is found in what the researchers conclude, "RT-PCR detection of ECoV and HKU23 in equine swabs confirms the circulation of these two viruses in horses in Saudi Arabia. Cocirculation of related viruses may provide potential for recombination, a potential means of generating genetic diversity and facilitating host jumps in coronaviruses. This is the first report of HKU23 being detected in horses and the first detection of ECoV in Asia outside of Japan." Another question that arises from the aforementioned conclusion is how serious a recombination may be and will the infection move back to other animals like camels?

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