New Delhi: Shedding light on the potential origins of Coronavirus —- which has claimed 17 lives so far and infected over 500, a new study revealed that it may have been transmitted to humans from snakes.
The findings are based on a genetic analysis of the virus.
In December last year, it was first reported at Wuhan in central China, and has been rapidly spreading. Since then, sick travelers from Wuhan have infected people in China and other countries, including the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Japan.
According to the researchers, including Wei Ji from Peking University Health Science Centre in China, patients who became infected with the coronavirus- named 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization (WHO)- were exposed to wildlife animals at a wholesale market, where seafood, poultry, snake, bats, and farm animals were sold.
The Journal of Medical Virology which has published this study found a mix, or “recombination”, of a viral protein which recognises and binds to host cells.
According to the study, this recognition is key to allowing viruses to enter host cells, and cause infection and disease.
Conducting a detailed genetic analysis of the 2019-nCoV, and comparing it with those of different coronaviruses from various geographic locations and host species, the study found that the new virus formed from a combination of CoV found in bats, and another of unknown origin.
“It is critical to determine the animal reservoir of the 2019-nCoV in order to understand the molecular mechanism of its cross-species spread,” the scientists reported in the study.
The new virus is similar to the one which caused the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, infecting 8422 people and killing over 900.