Published time: 20 May 2020
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, Molecular characterization, Next generation sequencing, Mutations, Variants, One health, Veterinarians
The current pandemic is caused by a novel coronavirus (CoV) called SARS-CoV-2 (species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, subgenus Sarbecovirus, genus Betacoronavirus, family Coronaviridae). In Italy, up to the 2nd of April 2020, overall 139,422 confirmed cases and 17,669 deaths have been notified, while 26,491 people have recovered. Besides the overloading of hospitals, another issue to face was the capacity to perform thousands of tests per day. In this perspective, to support the National Health Care System and to minimize the impact of this rapidly spreading virus, the Italian Ministry of Health involved the Istituti Zooprofilattici Sperimentali (IZSs), Veterinary Public Health Institutes, in the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 by testing human samples. The Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise is currently testing more than 600 samples per day and performing whole genome sequencing from positive samples. Sequence analysis of these samples suggested that different viral variants may be circulating in Italy, and so in Abruzzo region. CoVs, and related diseases, are well known to veterinarians since decades. The experience that veterinarians operating within the Public Health system gained in the control and characterization of previous health issues of livestock and poultry including avian flu, bluetongue, foot and mouth disease, responsible for huge economic losses, is certainly of great help to minimize the impact of this global crisis.
A One-Health approach for diagnosis and molecular characterization of SARS-CoV-2 in Italy