The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has raised the concern for identifying hosts of the virus since the early-stage outbreak. To address this problem, we proposed a deep learning method, DeepHoF, based on extracting the viral genomic features automatically, to predict host likelihood scores on five host types, including plant, germ, invertebrate, non-human vertebrate and human, for novel viruses. DeepHoF made up for the lack of an accurate tool applicable to any novel virus and overcame the limitation of the sequence similarity-based methods, reaching a satisfactory AUC of 0.987 on the five-classification. Additionally, to fill the gap in the efficient inference of host species for SARS-CoV-2 using existed tools, we conducted a deep analysis on the host likelihood profile calculated by DeepHoF. Using the isolates sequenced in the earliest stage of COVID-19, we inferred minks, bats, dogs and cats were potential hosts of SARS-CoV-2, while minks might be one of the most noteworthy hosts. Several genes of SARS-CoV-2 demonstrated their significance in determining the host range. Furthermore, the large-scale genome analysis, based on DeepHoF's computation for the later world-wide pandemic in 2020, disclosed the uniformity of host range among SARS-CoV-2 samples and the strong association of SARS-CoV-2 between humans and minks.
Guo, Q.; Li, M.; Wang, C.; Guo, J.; Jiang, X.; Tan, J.; Wu, S.; Wang, P.; Xiao, T.; Zhou, M.; Fang, Z.; Xiao, Y.; Zhu, H.