Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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An overview of current knowledge of deadly CoVs and their interface with innate immunity

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-01-05, 17:03 authored by Yamei Zhang, Siobhan Gargan, Yongxu Lu, Nigel J Stevenson
Coronaviruses are a large family of zoonotic RNA viruses, whose infection can lead to mild or lethal respiratory tract disease. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-1 (SARS-CoV-1) first emerged in Guangdong, China in 2002 and spread to 29 countries, infecting 8089 individuals and causing 774 deaths. In 2012, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged in Saudi Arabia and has spread to 27 countries, with a mortality rate of ~34%. In 2019, SARS-CoV-2 emerged and has spread to 220 countries, infecting over 100,000,000 people and causing more than 2,000,000 deaths to date. These three human coronaviruses cause diseases of varying severity. Most people develop mild, common cold-like symptoms, while some develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The success of all viruses, including coronaviruses, relies on their evolved abilities to evade and modulate the host anti-viral and pro-inflammatory immune responses. However, we still do not fully understand the transmission, phylogeny, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-1 and -2. Despite the rapid application of a range of therapies for SARS-CoV-2, such as convalescent plasma, remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine and type I interferon, no fully effective treatment has been determined. Remarkably, COVID-19 vaccine research and development have produced several offerings that are now been administered worldwide. Here, we summarise an up-to-date understanding of epidemiology, immunomodulation and ongoing anti-viral and immunosuppressive treatment strategies. Indeed, understanding the interplay between coronaviruses and the anti-viral immune response is crucial to identifying novel targets for therapeutic intervention, which may even prove invaluable for the control of future emerging coronavirus.


Science Foundation Ireland (Award No.19/ FFP/6483)

Chinese Scholarship Council (Award No. 201908300032)



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Published Citation

Zhang Y, Gargan S, Lu Y, Stevenson NJ. An overview of current knowledge of deadly CoVs and their interface with innate immunity. Viruses. 2021;13(4):560.

Publication Date

26 March 2021

PubMed ID



  • RCSI Bahrain




  • Published Version (Version of Record)