Host range, transmissibility and antigenicity of a pangolin coronavirus

Nat Microbiol. 2023 Oct;8(10):1820-1833. doi: 10.1038/s41564-023-01476-x. Epub 2023 Sep 25.


The pathogenic and cross-species transmission potential of SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses (CoVs) remain poorly characterized. Here we recovered a wild-type pangolin (Pg) CoV GD strain including derivatives encoding reporter genes using reverse genetics. In primary human cells, PgCoV replicated efficiently but with reduced fitness and showed less efficient transmission via airborne route compared with SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters. PgCoV was potently inhibited by US Food and Drug Administration approved drugs, and neutralized by COVID-19 patient sera and SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic antibodies in vitro. A pan-Sarbecovirus antibody and SARS-CoV-2 S2P recombinant protein vaccine protected BALB/c mice from PgCoV infection. In K18-hACE2 mice, PgCoV infection caused severe clinical disease, but mice were protected by a SARS-CoV-2 human antibody. Efficient PgCoV replication in primary human cells and hACE2 mice, coupled with a capacity for airborne spread, highlights an emergence potential. However, low competitive fitness, pre-immune humans and the benefit of COVID-19 countermeasures should impede its ability to spread globally in human populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Cricetinae
  • Host Specificity
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Pangolins
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Vaccines