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Can plants get COVID-19?

A sign asking people to observe social distancing and keep 1.5 meters, or five feet, apart to reduce the spread of the corona virus was put up in a field of tulips in Lisse, Netherlands, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Summary

Plant cells and animal cells are very different and it's rare for a single virus to be able to infect both

Humans have reportedly passed the novel coronavirus to pets, but it's not common

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are responding to your questions in a segment we call NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Question:

Norm asked: “Can plants get COVID-19?”

Answer:

No.

“Plant cells are built differently than animal cells, with the former having very tough cell walls. Viruses that infect animals or humans are typically not adapted to infect plants,” a New Jersey state web page assures the public.

But the virus hasn’t exclusively infected humans.

It is believed to have jumped to humans from a mammal sold as food in a Wuhan market.

Since then, it has jumped from humans to animals – including eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo and some pet cats and dogs – but that does not appear to be common.

“It is still not clear how often this happens and under what circumstances,” the government of Canada says online.

In a previous edition of NEWS 1130 Gets Answers, we asked whether sourdough starter could become infected with the novel coronavirus.

One expert said the virus could survive in a starter, but another said it is unlikely.

“For COVID to grow on the yeast starter, the virus would need to bind to the yeast’s ACE2 receptor, but yeast are so distantly related to mammals that this is unlikely (one would have to model the binding properties to answer this properly, but the expectation would be a very low match),” Sarah Otto, a UBC zoology professor who has studied the evolution of yeast, said.

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