As the deadly Novel Coronavirus sweeps across the globe, infecting over half a million of people globally, forcing countries to close their borders and a worldwide lockdown, researchers recently revealed that endangered animals pangolins are the most likely link between the virus, bats and humans.

It was revealed that some of these animals which are smuggled into China, the initial epicentre of the COVID-19, carry Coronavirus. This new finding has shed some lights into the origins of the deadly virus.

The carriers of Coronavirus

China market
China market YouTube grab

As per a study, which was published in Nature, the degree of similarity between the Coronavirus in the small mammals and the one causing the pandemic is not enough to suggest that the animals are the intermediate hosts behind the COVID-19 outbreak. The scientists, including researchers from the University of Hong Kong, has suggested that the pangolins are a second mammalian host of Coronavirus.

The researchers have revealed that the sale of these wild animals in the exotic markets should be strictly prohibited to reduce the risk of future virus transmission to humans. However, while the early evidence suggested that bats may be the reservoir for the SARS-CoV-2, as per the scientists the identity of intermediate host animals, that could have played a major role in terms of virus transmission to humans, remains unknown.

Market in China

It should be noted that the market linked to early outbreaks of respiratory disease cases was cleared out shortly after the COVID-19 began to spread which led the researchers to search for the source of the deadly Coronavirus. Scientists earlier said that pangolins could be the possible source of this virus which are the most common illegally trafficked mammal and used as food and in traditional medicine.

In recent research, researcher Yi Guan and his colleagues examined the samples collected from 18 Malayan pangolins that were obtained from anti-smuggling operations in China between August 2017 and January 2018. The analysis revealed that five of these animals has SARS-CoV-2-related Coronaviruses.

After conducting another examination they found similar Coronaviruses in three out of 12 additional animals seized in the country in 2018 and inside another animal from which samples were collected in 2019. As per the study, the viruses isolated from these samples have a similarity of approximately 85 to 92 percent to Novel Coronavirus.

Pangolin
Representational Picture Wikimedia Commons

The research finding

Scientists involved in this study revealed that one virus showed strong similarity in the sequence of the receptor-binding domain, which is the region that encodes the spike of the virus that facilitates entry into host cells. The researchers added that all of the pangolin Coronaviruses identified to date lack an alteration in their sequences that is noticed in human Novel Coronavirus.

The researchers also claimed that apart from bats pangolins are the only mammals which have been found to be infected with a SARS-CoV-2-related Coronavirus. The finding also suggested that there is a potentially important role for pangolins in the ecology of coronaviruses. However, the scientists also claimed that pangolins cannot be directly implicated in the SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans.