To date, intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2 remain obscure and controversial. Several studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2-related pangolin coronavirus (Pangolin-CoV) has a high sequence similarity to SARS-CoV-2 and might be the initial source of SARS-CoV-2; however, the biological characteristics of Pangolin-CoV are still largely unknown. In this study, we evaluated the pathogenicity and transmissibility of Pangolin-CoV in Syrian golden hamsters Mesocricetus auratus (Linnaeus, 1758) and compared it with SARS-CoV-2. Pangolin-CoV could effectively infect hamsters, showed similar tissue tropism to SARS-CoV-2 and replicated efficiently in the respiratory system and brain. The infected hamsters had no weight loss but had obvious viral shedding and lung pathological injury. Notably, Pangolin-CoV could transmit between hamsters by direct contact but not via aerosols, and the infected hamsters could exhale infectious viral aerosols (>1 μm). These results highlight the importance of continuous monitoring of coronaviruses in pangolins owing to the potential threat of Pangolin-CoV to human health.
Volume 25, Issue 6, 17 June 2022, 104350