Phylogenetic perspectives on the epidemiology and origins of SARS and SARS-like coronaviruses

Chi Wai Yip, Chung Chau Hon, Mang Shi, Tommy Tsan-Yuk Lam, Ken Yan-Ching Chow, Fanya Zeng, Frederick Chi-Ching Leung
Infection, Genetics and Evolution 2009, 9 (6): 1185-96
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory disease caused by a zoonotic coronavirus (CoV) named SARS-CoV (SCoV), which rapidly swept the globe after its emergence in rural China during late 2002. The origins of SCoV have been mysterious and controversial, until the recent discovery of SARS-like CoV (SLCoV) in bats and the proposal of bats as the natural reservior of the Coronaviridae family. In this article, we focused on discussing how phylogenetics contributed to our understanding towards the emergence and transmission of SCoV. We first reviewed the epidemiology of SCoV from a phylogenetic perspective and discussed the controversies over its phylogenetic origins. Then, we summarized the phylogenetic findings in relation to its zoonotic origins and the proposed inter-species viral transmission events. Finally, we also discussed how the discoveries of SCoV and SLCoV expanded our knowledge on the evolution of the Coronaviridae family as well as its implications on the possible future re-emergence of SCoV.

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