A new study suggests snakes may be the source of the new coronavirus causing an outbreak in China.
The new deadly virus may have ‘jumped’ to humans from snakes. Pretty surprising, no?
The new study analyzed the genetic sequence of the new virus, 2019-nCoV, and compared it with the genetic sequences of more than 200 other coronaviruses from around the world that infect various animals. Surprisingly, they found that the snakes are the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for this virus.
What are coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, while others infect animals, including camels, cats and bats.
In rare cases, coronaviruses in animals can evolve to infect people and then spread between people.
This was the case with SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and appears to be the case with 2019-nCoV.
Origin of the new coronavirus
The scientists found that 2019-nCoV is a mix of two coronaviruses: one that is known to infect bats and another unknown coronavirus.
The researchers analyzed the genetic sequence of 2019-nCoV and found that the virus may have come from snakes. This would be the first time that snakes are the most probable wildlife animal reservoir.
The two types of snakes common to southeastern China are Bungarus multicinctus – the many-banded krait – and Naja atra – Chinese cobra.
It is worth saying that snakes are among the animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where many initial cases worked or visited before they became ill.
Finally, the study shows that 2019-nCoV mutated one of its viral proteins that recognizes and binds to receptors on host cells. It is maybe this change that enabled 2019-nCoV to jump from snakes to humans.
Coronavirus epidemics January 2020
There are more than 500 confirmed cases and 17 deaths linked to the virus in China. The virus has been detected in travelers to Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as a resident of the United States who had recently visited Wuhan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) held a committee meeting today to determine whether the virus constitutes an international public health emergency. However, the committee did not reach a final decision on this topic, and will reconvene tomorrow. Find similar virus epidemic news on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle.