Gregory Gray, MD, MPH

Gregory Gray, MD, MPH

University of Texas Medical Branch

Research Project:
Studying First Canine-Like Coronavirus Associated with Disease in Humans

Grant Awarded:

  • COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award

Research Topic:

  • basic biologic mechanisms

Research Disease:

  • COVID-19

Our team of researchers have found a very unusual coronavirus that seems to be causing pneumonia among people living in Malaysia. This novel virus has genetic components suggesting it may have spilled over from dogs to humans. Recently, the same virus was found by another team studying patients with respiratory illness in Haiti. It now seems likely that this virus is the 8th human coronavirus known to infect humans. Like SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2, because it is so unusual, it may be a virus that will continue to adapt to humans and cause serious future epidemics. In this ALA-sponsored study we are seeking to better understand the epidemiology of this novel virus by studying pneumonia patients and comparing their exposures and serological responses to those of healthy people in Malaysia. Better understanding this virus' epidemiology will help us determine if and how we might develop interventions to stop its spread. In this study we are also developing diagnostic tools such that other teams of researchers can detect both previous and recent virus infection. Normally, emerging respiratory viruses take dozens of years to spillover from animals to cause epidemic disease in humans. Our research team has developed diagnostic tools to detect such viruses before they fully adapt to humans and become epidemic problems. It was during our study of 600 pneumonia patient samples with such diagnostics that we discovered the canine-like coronavirus virus we are now studying in this ALA-sponsored study in Malaysia. In other projects, we are continuing to look for such novel respiratory viruses in Sri Lanka, Kenya, the United States, and Vietnam with new studies in development in Nigeria, Columbia, and Peru. This novel pre-pandemic virus discovery research work is being followed closely by a number or scientific organizations and science reporters as an important new approach to mitigating novel zoonotic virus spillover events.

Update: Our research work has been markedly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Professor Gray's (principal investigator) move to a new university. Even so, we have made major progress winning the numerous necessary approvals and administrative permissions. Funding and supplies have been transferred to our collaborators in Malaysia, Ohio State University, and the FDA. Currently, we have now enrolled 59 of 200 pneumonia patients and 9 of 50 healthy control subjects in the study. We are also making excellent progress in developing the diagnostic tools (Ohio State University and FDA) we need to complete the epidemiological assessment.

Page last updated: October 6, 2022

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