Bovine coronavirus (BCoV) causes disease and economic losses in the cattle industry worldwide. The virus is responsible for respiratory disease and diarrhea in calves and winter dysentery in adult cattle. It is also thought to play a role in the Bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC). BCoV is a member of the same species group as HCoV-OC43, a human coronavirus, whose zoonotic source has been speculated to include domestic livestock.
Bovine Coronavirus Background
BCoV belongs to the genus Betacoronavirus within the family Coronaviridae (BetaCoV1), which also includes HCoV-OC4, a closely related human respiratory disease pathogen, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV (Vijgen et al., 2006). It is an enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus (27-32 kbp) encoding 5 major structural proteins. As it is highly conserved between strains the 50-kDa nucleocapsid (N) is often the target for viral RNA detection assays. BCoV also contains a surface hemagglutinin-esterase (HE) glycoprotein (120–140 kDa), which is unique to some group 2 CoVs, and is a receptor-destroying enzyme (esterase) to reverse hemagglutination. BCoV also possesses an outer-surface S glycoprotein (190 kDa) which consists of an S1 subunit that contains the dominant neutralizing epitopes and an S2 subunit that mediates viral membrane fusion. HE and S are both involved in attachment to host cell receptors and hemagglutination of erythrocytes. BCoV consists of one serotype with some antigenic variation between different strains.
BCoV transmission is horizontal, via oro-fecal or respiratory routes (Oma et al., 2016) resulting in both enteric and respiratory disease in both domestic and wild ruminants, including cattle, deer and camelids. In cattle, the infection causes calf enteritis and winter dysentery in adult cattle. It is also thought to be a member of the Bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC), which is the major cause of serious respiratory tract infections in calves. Other viruses associated with the BRDC include bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), bovine herpesvirus type 1 (BHV-1) and bovine parainfluenza virus type 3 (BPIV3). These diseases result in substantial economic losses and reduced animal welfare (Boileau & Kapil, 2010). Coronavirus infections may be complicated by parasite infestation (e.g., Cryptosporidia, Eimeria) or bacterial infections (e.g., E. coli, Salmonella) and are often a more severe and long-lasting disease compared to other associated diseases, such as rotavirus. BCoV infection occurs in calves between the ages of one week and three months and gastrointestinal signs include diarrhea, dehydration, depression, reduced weight gain and anorexia. Respiratory infection in calves shows as a nasal discharge and clinical signs may worsen with secondary bacterial infection. Infection in adults is normally subclinical, the exception being with winter dysentery, which affects housed cattle over the winter months. Clinical signs include diarrhea and a significant drop in milk yield.
Coronaviruses genetically and/or antigenically similar to BCoV have been detected from respiratory samples of wild ruminants, dogs (Erles et al., 2003) and humans (Zhang et al., 1994). A human enteric CoV isolate from a child with acute diarrhea (HECoV-4408) was genetically (99% nucleotide identity in the S and HE gene) and antigenically closely related to BCoV, suggesting that it is a BCoV variant able to infect humans (Saif, 2010). There are commercial BCoV vaccines to prevent enteritic disease in cattle but none are available against respiratory BCoV infections (Gomez & Weese, 2017).
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