Newly published research shows that genome sequences of viruses in pangolins to be 99% identical to those on humans getting infected with coronavirus.
So far, an animal is the intermediate host of the new strain of coronavirus, thought to infect humans in Wuhan, China, remains a mystery. A new study published by Chinese scientists concludes that pangolin may be the intermediate host in this epidemic, according to Caixin.
The new virus, which emerged at a live animal market in central China’s Wuhan city late last year, is believed to have originated in bats, but researchers have suggested there could have been an “intermediate host” in the transmission to humans.
After testing more than 1,000 samples from wild animals, scientists from the university found the genome sequences of viruses found on pangolins to be 99 percent identical to those on coronavirus patients, the official Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
Initially, the researches observed a 70% positive rate of Betacoronavirus in pangolins when tested using molecular biological detection method. They determined similarity after isolating the virus further and observing its structure using an electron microscope.
The pangolin is considered the most trafficked animal on the planet and over one million have been snatched from Asian and African forests in the past decade, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
They are destined for markets in China, where their scales are used in traditional medicine — despite having no medical benefits — and their meat is bought on the black market.
China in January ordered a temporary ban on the trade-in wild animals until the epidemic is under control.
The country has long been accused by conservationists of tolerating a shadowy trade in endangered animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.