Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Biology Christopher Schmitt has a new paper accepted in PLoS ONE. The paper investigates variation in the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 gene regions among a worldwide sample of 245 captive and wild savanna monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.); the proteins encoded by these gene regions are the primary keys by which SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) gains entry into cells to cause disease. He and his fellow researchers investigated genomic variation in these sequences to assess whether savanna monkeys might be as susceptible to disease as humans when infected with SARS-CoV-2.
This is important for two reasons: savanna monkeys have been shown to be a good biological model for SARS, a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2 that relies on the same receptors, and so they want to establish if they would be a good model for vaccine development and testing; and savanna monkeys throughout their range in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean live in very close contact with humans. Their results suggest that most savanna monkeys are as likely as humans to become infected with SARS-CoV-2. For more information, see Professor Schmitt’s explanation on Twitter.

Posted 3 weeks ago on in Faculty News, News