Scientists around the world are looking for an animal from whichcoronavirus 2019-nCoV was transmitted to humans. Since the 2019-nCoV genome is almost 80% similar to the genome for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), scientists looked at bats in search of a natural host for the virus. The fact is that they turned out to be carriers of SARS, therefore, researchers believe that the coronavirus of their volatile “hands” is. But at the very beginning of the epidemic, Chinese scientists said that snakes are the natural host of 2019-nCoV, but the research community questioned the scientific community. Meanwhile, today, scientists do not exclude that the intermediate host of the coronavirus are ant-feeding mammals - pangolins.
Pangolins and bats - carriers of coronavirus?
Today, the pangolins are on the verge of extinction. The reason for this lies in Chinese gastronomic and medical hobbies - it is pangolins that are sold in Chinese markets, and then they use their meat for cooking and medicine. But the matter is not limited to China only - according to The New York Times, the pangolin market is so large that they are the most common mammals on the planet. Close to armadillos and anteaters, pangolins live in Equatorial and South Africa, as well as in Southeast Asia.
According to researchers, the original hostViruses are considered bats. And if pangolins are involved in the transmission of the disease, then they are most likely intermediate hosts. A similar situation, by the way, was observed during the outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome MERS - then camels acted as an intermediate host, but bats again became the original hosts. However, to be sure where 2019-nCoV came from, researchers need to know exactly which animals were on the market in Wuhan.
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Recall that a virus has been detected in peoplewho visited the seafood market in Wuhan. However, some of the first cases of infection were observed in people who had never visited the market. According to epidemiologists, this may indicate that the first jump from animals to humans may not have occurred on the market. People could have contracted the disease from animals elsewhere or earlier. The situation is complicated by the fact that the animals on the market in Wuhan were quickly disposed of, although information was received from China that animal tissue samples showed a negative result for the presence of the virus in the body.
Why exactly pangolins?
Chinese scientists drew attention to the pangolinsalmost immediately. Information on the association of these mammals with 2019-nCoV appeared in a report preceding the epidemic. Back in October, Chinese researchers published a report documenting that these lizards can adopt various coronaviruses. An analysis of the genetic study of pangolins subsequently appeared in publicly accessible databases where they can be analyzed. And in early February, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that researchers from South China Agricultural University found a virus in pangolins, which is 99% consistent with the new coronavirus.
The news report does not say thatthe results are conclusive, but the findings suggest that pangolins may be intermediate hosts of the virus. Researchers suggest that a new coronavirus from bats could recombine one of the pangolins in the body, resulting in the formation of 2019-nCoV. The work will be published on the bioRxiv preprint server in the near future. It is also possible that other animals may be intermediate hosts of the coronavirus.