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Coronaviruses are species in the genera of virus belonging to the subfamily Coronavirinae in the family Coronaviridae. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense RNA genome and with a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. The genomic size of coronaviruses ranges from approximately 26 to 32 kilobases, extraordinarily large for an RNA virus. The name "coronavirus" is derived from the Latin corona, meaning crown or halo, and refers to the characteristic appearance of virions under electron microscopy (E.M.) with a fringe of large, bulbous surface projections creating an image reminiscent of the solar corona. This morphology is actually formed by the viral spike (S) peplomers, which are proteins that populate the surface of the virus and determine host tropism.
Coronaviruses are grouped in the order Nidovirales, named for the Latin nidus, meaning nest, as all viruses in this order produce a 3' co-terminal nested set of subgenomic mRNA's during infection. Proteins that contribute to the overall structure of all coronaviruses are the spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M) and nucleocapsid (N). In the specific case of the SARS coronavirus (see below), a defined receptor-binding domain on S mediates the attachment of the virus to its cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Some coronaviruses (specifically the members of Betacoronavirus subgroup A) also have a shorter spike-like protein called hemagglutinin esterase (HE).
Coronaviruses primarily infect the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract of mammals and birds. Four to five different currently known strains of coronaviruses infect humans. The most publicized human coronavirus, SARS-CoV which causes SARS, has a unique pathogenesis because it causes both upper and lower respiratory tract infections and can also cause gastroenteritis. Coronaviruses are believed to cause a significant percentage of all common colds in human adults. Coronaviruses cause colds in humans primarily in the winter and early spring seasons. The significance and economic impact of coronaviruses as causative agents of the common cold are hard to assess because, unlike rhinoviruses (another common cold virus), human coronaviruses are difficult to grow in the laboratory.
Schmallenberg virus is the informal name given to an orthobunyavirus related to Shamonda virus, which has not been given a formal name as of January 2012, initially reported in November 2011 to cause congenital malformations and stillbirths in cattle, sheep, goats, and possibly alpaca. It appears to be transmitted by midges (Culicoides spp.) which are likely to have been most active in causing the infection in the northern hemisphere summer and autumn of 2011, with animals subsequently giving birth from late 2011.
The virus is named after Schmallenberg, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, from where the first definitive sample was derived. After Germany, it has also been detected in Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and Switzerland. Also, Schmallenberg virus is detected in midges in Denmark, but it has not been isolated from mammals. The virus has been recognised by the European Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (German Research Institute for Animal Health). A risk assessment in December 2011 did not consider it likely to be a threat to human health, as other comparable viruses are not zoonotic.
Immunity can possibly be acquired naturally against SBV. It is possible that the seasonality of the infection cycle would not entail a second epidemic circulation next year, due to the shortness of the viraemic period (about 4 to 6 days post exposure, longer in affected foetuses). Vaccination is a possible option for controlling the disease as a vaccine exists for the similar Akabane virus.. In March 2012 scientists of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut first succeeded in visualizing the Schmallenberg virus.