Identification and characterization of circulating coronaviruses and host receptor diversity in non-human primates

Project summary

The world population is projected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years and with this, encroachment of humans into animal habitats will continue to lead to the emergence of new as well as recurrent infectious diseases that are transmissible between wild animals, domestic animals and humans. These diseases are also known as zoonoses and are caused by agents which are thought to arise from wildlife such as non-human primates (NHPs). Zoonoses will continue to shape human life and contribute to the overall global health burden and economy. The presence of zoonotic diseases highlights the importance of conducting research in wildlife to identify disease agents that could potentially infect humans. However, disease screening in wildlife is challenging because of logistical and financial challenges associated with longitudinal sample collection especially in developing countries. There is thus scarce knowledge on disease agents that circulate in wildlife. In addition, mechanisms by which these disease agents infect multiple hosts including humans are still poorly understood. In this study, we propose screen for coronaviruses in wild NHP populations in Kenya. Results from this study can give insights into the origins of human disease agents and provide a database of disease agents in wild animals which will be useful for providing a starting point for vaccine development in the event of disease outbreaks. Because NHPs are similar to humans in many ways, they are used as disease models for pre-clinical testing of drugs and vaccines.