Coronavirus source: Pangolin linked to epidemic outbreak

Pablo Tucker
February 12, 2020

Recent studies suggested that bats are the ones that sparked the outbreak.

The Daily Maverick offers further insights, tracing the origins of the claim to researchers working with the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas who conducted research into the viral communities of Malayan Pangolins (Manis javanica) past year.

According to Liu Yahong, president of the university, the research team analysed more than 1,000 metagenome samples of wild animals and found pangolins as the most likely intermediate host, state-run Xinhua news agency reported as 73 new deaths were reported in China on Thursday due to the novel coronavirus. In the case of this one, experts think the virus first infected people at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where live animals were sold. "For example, with Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome] in addition to civets, other small predators may also spread the virus".


So are scaly anteaters responsible for fuelling an epidemic?
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All eight pangolin species are threatened with extinction, in accordance with this International Union for the Conservation of Nature. People in China and Vietnam also eat its flesh. Although both were nocturnal mammals, it was unclear how the virus jumped from bat to pangolin.

The researchers "did not have the privilege of obtaining large quantities of pangolin samples" but hope to get more to verify the results, she said. The examination discovered they are "the in all likelihood moderate host" of coronavirus, which has spread to 25 nations since rising at a fish showcase in Wuhan, China, in December.


A computational virologist at the University of Glasgow, UK, David Robertson, said the pangolins were an intermediate species for coronavirus.

Since, the coronavirus source is still unknown, we want to do everything in our power to prevent deadly disease outbreaks from spreading.

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. Wong scanned existing genomic data of coronaviruses derived from animals that are known to be in China.


"Therefore, the intermediate host may be the source of the virus", professor Shen Yongyi said.

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