Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all coronaviruses is estimated to have existed as recently as 8000 BCE, although some models place the common ancestor as far back as 55 million years or more, implying long term coevolution with bat and avian species. The most recent common ancestor of the alpha coronavirus line has been placed at about 2400 BCE, of the beta coronavirus line at 3300 BCE, of the gamma coronavirus line at 2800 BCE, and of the delta coronavirus line at about 3000 BCE. Bats and birds, as warm-blooded flying vertebrates, are an ideal natural reservoir for the coronavirus gene pool (with bats the reservoir for alpha coronaviruses and beta coronavirus – and birds the reservoir for gamma coronaviruses and delta coronaviruses). The large number and global range of bat and avian species that host viruses has enabled extensive evolution and dissemination of coronaviruses.

Many human coronaviruses have their origin in bats. The human coronavirus NL63 shared a common ancestor with a bat coronavirus (ARCoV.2) between 1190 and 1449 CE. The human coronavirus 229E shared a common ancestor with a bat coronavirus (GhanaGrp1 Bt CoV) between 1686 and 1800 CE. More recently, alpaca coronavirus and human coronavirus 229E diverged sometime before 1960. MERS-CoV emerged in humans from bats through the intermediate host of camels. MERS-CoV, although related to several bat coronavirus species, appears to have diverged from these several centuries ago. The most closely related bat coronavirus and SARS-CoV diverged in 1986. The ancestors of SARS-CoV first infected leaf-nose bats of the genus Hipposideridae; subsequently, they spread to horseshoe bats in the species Rhinolophidae, then to Asian palm civets, and finally to humans.

Unlike other beta coronaviruses, bovine coronavirus of the species Beta coronavirus and subgenus Embecovirus is thought to have originated in rodents and not in bats. In the 1790s, equine coronavirus diverged from the bovine coronavirus after a cross-species jump. Later in the 1890s, human coronavirus OC43 diverged from bovine coronavirus after another cross-species spillover event. It is speculated that the flu pandemic of 1890 may have been caused by this spillover event, and not by the influenza virus, because of the related timing, neurological symptoms, and unknown causative agent of the pandemic. Besides causing respiratory infections, human coronavirus OC43 is also suspected of playing a role in neurological diseases. In the 1950s, the human coronavirus OC43 began to diverge into its present genotypes. Phylogentically, mouse hepatitis virus (Murine coronavirus), which infects the mouse's liver and central nervous system, is related to human coronavirus OC43 and bovine coronavirus. Human coronavirus HKU1, like the aforementioned viruses, also has its origins in rodents


Coronaviruses vary significantly in risk factor. Some can kill more than 30% of those infected, such as MERS-CoV, and some are relatively harmless, such as the common cold. Coronaviruses can cause colds with major symptoms, such as fever, and a sore throat from swollen adenoids. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia (either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia) and bronchitis (either direct viral bronchitis or secondary bacterial bronchitis). The human coronavirus discovered in 2003, SARS-CoV, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), has a unique pathogenesis because it causes both upper and lower respiratory tract infections.

·         Six species of human coronaviruses are known, with one species subdivided into two different strains, making seven strains of human coronaviruses altogether.

·         Three human coronaviruses produce symptoms that are potentially severe:

·        Common cold

·         Main article: Common cold

·         The human coronaviruses HCoV-OC43HCoV-HKU1HCoV-229E, and HCoV-NL63 continually circulate in the human population and produce the generally mild symptoms of the common cold in adults and children worldwide. These coronaviruses cause about 15% of common colds. While 40 to 50% of colds are caused by rhinoviruses. The four mild coronaviruses have a seasonal incidence occurring in the winter months in temperate climates. There is no preponderance in any season in tropical climates.

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