Published: Wed, February 12, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Chinese scientists have named the intermediate carrier of the coronavirus

Chinese scientists have named the intermediate carrier of the coronavirus

The coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and is thought to have leaped to humans at the seafood and wild-animal market, where numerous first people to become infected worked or attended.

According to reports, after testing of over 1,000 samples from wild animals, scientists from the university found the genome sequences of viruses in pangolins to be 99 percent identical to those on coronavirus patients. Ebola outbreak (2013-2016) was also traced to bats. Scientists are working on tracking how the novel coronavirus made the jump from animals to humans, and early studies have pointed at bats as the source of the new virus.

Pangolins are a delicacy in the culture of China. At first, snakes had been blamed for the virus.

At a seminar in August previous year, officials from China's Wildlife and Plant Protection Department said they were trying to upgrade pangolins to a class-1 most protected animal.

They are destined for markets in China and Vietnam, where their scales are used in traditional medicine - despite having no medical benefits - and their meat is bought on the black market.

Researchers at the South China Agricultural Institute have linked the coronavirus source to the endangered pangolin as a potential intermediate host.

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Bats pass along viruses in their poop: If they drop feces onto a piece of fruit that another animal then eats, the creature can become a carrier.

So are scaly anteaters responsible for fuelling an epidemic?
. According to Chinese law, people who sell pangolins can be imprisoned for a period of 10 years or more. The virus killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 in eight months.

Shen Yongyi, a professor with the university and a member of the research team, said previous research had found the new coronavirus originated in bats, but as the spread of the virus happened in winter, it was unlikely that people had been directly infected by bats which were hibernating.

The only way to make sure about where the virus originated out, however, would be to take DNA samples from animals marketed in the Huanan marketplace and out of bats in the region.

Whatever the mode of transmission, the latest outbreak has once again brought to the forefront the rise of zoonotic diseases and its critical association with flourishing illegal wildlife trade, especially in China. Firstly, a permanent ban on wildlife trade, in China, and around the world, is the only solution.

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