Uppsala University’s Zoonosis Science Center has found a new coronavirus. According to their study of nearly 260 bank voles caught in Grimsö, Rebro County, the virus is commonly found in Sweden’s red-backed voles.

“Between 2015-17, we repeatedly found that we have the ‘Grimsö Virus’ in 3.4% of these voles, which would say that the virus is widespread and common to Sweden’s bank voles,” says Åke Lundkvist, Professor in virology and head of the Zoonosis Science Center at Uppsala University. He co-led the research with Jiaxin Ling and doctoral student and first author Anishia Wasberg.

The Zoonosis Science Center (ZSC) maps zoonotic viruses in order to better understand virus-host animal interactions. Seasonal coronaviruses like HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 are thought to spread to humans from rodents such as voles, rats, mice, as opposed to SARS-CoV and MERS coronaviruses, which are thought to have originated in bats. The goal is to gain a better understanding of major virus infections and develop methods for effectively limiting disease transmission from animals to people.

In a recent study published in the journal Viruses, ZSC researchers examined red-backed voles captured around Grimsö in Rebro County between 2015 and 17 and checked them for coronavirus. The ‘Grimsö Virus,’ a new coronavirus in the betacoronavirus family that includes SARS-CoV, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2, was discovered.

Rodents already carry a wide range of zoonotic microorganisms, such as Hantaviruses and Tularemia, implying that they play an important role in infectious disease transmission. Infectious diseases associated with small mammals such as rodents have increased dramatically in recent years, and research into the ecology of these host animals is an important component of efforts to prevent future outbreaks.

The bank vole is one of Europe’s most common rodents (Myodes glareolus). Several coronaviruses have been discovered in animal populations in the United Kingdom, Poland, France, and Germany.

“The Grimsö Virus is still posing unknown public health risks. However, based on our findings and previous coronavirus discoveries in bank voles, we have reason to be concerned about the coronavirus in wild rodents.” According to Professor ke Lundkvist

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