Not All 7 Human Coronaviruses Are The Same


Health Editor’s Note: There are thousands of types of coronaviruses, of which only 7 affect humans and of these only three lead to severe disease and possible death. We are currently dealing with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and in the past, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS.) Researchers have discovered protein features that are found in all three of the above. These common  features are what gives the coronavirus its ability to move from animal to human host and lead to a high fatality rate. The hope is to be able to use genomic analysis to discover why some of the coronavirues lead to deaths while others only cause minor illness and develop a treatment for COVID-19….Carol  

Unique genomic features of fatal coronaviruses

by NIH

At a Glance

  • A genomic analysis may help explain why some coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV-2, can be deadly, while others cause only mild illness.
  • The findings could help guide the development of treatments for COVID-19 and identify coronaviruses that might pose a threat to humans in the future.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, which means crown-like.


Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that mostly cause respiratory illness. There are thousands of coronaviruses. They usually circulate among animals such as pigs, camels, bats, and cats. But sometimes these viruses can make the jump to humans and cause disease.

Seven coronaviruses are known to sicken people. Four of these cause only mild to moderate disease. Three coronaviruses have emerged during the past 20 years that can cause serious illness or death.

The first caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in November 2002. The virus (SARS-CoV) was contained, and no cases have been reported since 2004. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was identified in September 2012. There are still small outbreaks of this coronavirus (MERS-CoV) today. SARS has an estimated fatality rate of 9% and MERS of 36%.

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