Pangolins are possible coronavirus hosts, scientists say

Katie Ramirez
February 12, 2020

Researchers from Guangzhou, China have suggested that pangolins may be an intermediate animal source of the coronavirus between the bat and humans in the epidemic that has infected more than 31,000 people. This suggested an intermediate host, and some studies had proposed various candidates such as snakes.

At a seminar in August past year, officials from China's Wildlife and Plant Protection Department said they were trying to upgrade pangolins to a class-1 most protected animal.

Pangolins are one of the most trafficked mammals in the world and scientists lately believe to have spread coronavirus.

They're destined for markets in China and Vietnam, the place their scales are utilized in conventional medication - in spite of having no clinical advantages - and their meat is purchased at the black marketplace.

"This latest discovery will be of great significance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the virus)", South China Agricultural University, which led the research, said in a statement on its website.

The virus was once believed to had been unfold from Wuhan's Hunan seafood wholesale marketplace. Animals are kept in small enclosures in close proximity to one another allowing for the spread of pathogens through fluid exchange or aerosolisation. The study also revealed that the virus may dock into a receptor in human cells known as ACE2, profound in people's lungs.

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A pangolin looks like a scaly anteater.

All eight pangolin species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is not yet clear if any pangolins (or bats, for that matter) were offered in the Huanan marketplace. The investigation showed that pangolines are the "most likely intermediate host".

The researchers analysed over 1,000 metagenome samples from wild animals.

Pangolins are among Asia's most trafficked mammals, although protected by worldwide law, because their meat is considered a delicacy in countries such as China and its scales are used in traditional medicine, the World Wildlife Fund says.

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.

That is because almost all coronaviruses are located in China. Plus, the study authors said, most of the bats that host coronaviruses "live near humans in China, potentially transmitting viruses to humans and livestock".

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