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Title: SARS-CoV-2, a threat to marine mammals? A study from Italian seawaters
Authors: Audino, Tania
Grattarola, Carla
Centelleghe, Cinzia
Peletto, Simone
Giorda, Federica 
Florio, Caterina Lucia
Caramelli, Maria
Bozzetta, Elena
Mazzariol, Sandro
Di Guardo, Giovanni
Lauriano, Giancarlo
Casalone, Cristina
UNESCO Clasification: 240119 Zoología marina
310907 Patología
Keywords: ACE-2
Italian Wastewater Management Species
Marine Mammals
Issue Date: 2021
Journal: Animals 
Abstract: Zoonotically transmitted coronaviruses were responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), causing the dramatic Coronavirus Disease-2019 (CoViD-19) pandemic, which affected public health, the economy, and society on a global scale. The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic permeated into our environment and wildlife as well; in particular, concern has been raised about the viral occurrence and persistence in aquatic and marine ecosystems. The discharge of untreated wastewaters carrying infectious SARS-CoV-2 into natural water systems that are home to sea mammals may have dramatic consequences on vulnerable species. The efficient transmission of coronaviruses raises questions regarding the contributions of virus-receptor interactions. The main receptor of SARS-CoV-2 is Angiotensin Converting Enzyme-2 (ACE-2), serving as a functional receptor for the viral spike (S) protein. This study aimed, through the comparative analysis of the ACE-2 receptor with the human one, at assessing susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 for different species of marine mammals living in Italian waters. We also determined, by means of immunohistochemistry, ACE-2 receptor localization in the lung tissue from different cetacean species, in order to provide a preliminary characterization of ACE-2 expression in the marine mammal respiratory tracts. Furthermore, to evaluate if and how Italian wastewater management and coastal exposition to extreme weather events may led to susceptible marine mammal populations being exposed to SARS-CoV-2, geomapping data were carried out and overlapped. The results showed the potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure for marine mammals inhabiting Italian coastal waters, putting them at risk when swimming and feeding in specific risk areas. Thus, we highlighted the potential hazard of the reverse zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection, along with its impact on marine mammals regularly inhabiting the Mediterranean Sea, while also stressing the need for appropriate action in order to prevent further damage to specific vulnerable populations.
ISSN: 2076-2615
DOI: 10.3390/ani11061663
Source: Animals [EISSN 2076-2615], v. 11 (6), 1663, (Junio 2021)
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