Canine Distemper….in humans?

The Society for General Microbiology (#sgmman) is on for one more day so here is another quick post on viruses.

General schematic of Canine Distemper Virus

Canine Distemper virus has a wide host range which include lions, tigers, hyenas, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, seals, martens, badger, bears and monkeys.

But not humans, not yet

Humans get measles, a closely related virus. So closely related that macaques and dogs vaccinated with measles are also immunized to CDV and monkeys vaccinated with CDV vaccine are protected from measles.

Measles and Canine Distemper Virus

  • Paramyxoviridae family
  • Morbillivirus genus
  • single-stranded negative-sense RNA genome
  • 15690 bases
  • 150 nm

Interested to explore CDV’s potential to cross species and infect human hosts researchers from University of Würzburg and Bern tested the idea on two human cell lines that express the receptors targeted by the distemper virus – SLAM (aka CD150) and nectin-4.

One mutation, that’s all

The experiment found that a single mutation in the viral protein hemagglutinin (the “H” in H1N1) effectively improves the ability of distemper to bind human CD150 receptor; specifically a change from aspartic acid to lysine at position 540 and impressively, the change took only 3 passages.

As an interesting aside,it is believed that the measles virus emerged about 1000 years ago from the rinderpest virus

Of course receptor binding is only the first step in adapting to a new host, it takes a few more adaptive changes, though not as many as we would think.

flu quartersize

A large un-vaccinated population makes a perfect evolutionary crucible; if CDV ever makes the jump to humans, I’m pointing the finger at the anti-vaxxers for giving evolution a helping hand.

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Bieringer, M., Han, W.J., Kendl, S., Khosravi, M., Plattet, P., and Schneider-Schaulies, J. (2013): Experimental adaptation of canine distemper virus (CDV) to the human entry receptor CD150. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057488

Supplemental Material

Canine distemper virus


Measles virus


PRODUCT:nucleocapsid protein N
PRODUCT:nucleocapsid protein
PRODUCT:phosphoprotein P
PRODUCT:phosphoprotein P
PRODUCT:C protein
PRODUCT:C protein
PRODUCT:matrix protein M
PRODUCT:matrix protein M
PRODUCT:fusion protein F
PRODUCT:fusion protein
PRODUCT:haemagglutinin protein H
PRODUCT:hemagglutinin protein H
PRODUCT:large polymerase protein L
PRODUCT:large polymerase protein

9 thoughts on “Canine Distemper….in humans?

  1. Do you mean by ‘anti-vaxxers’ people who don’t vaccinate their children, or those who don’t vaccinate their dogs? Both, I guess!

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