Update: Bats, snakes may have caused China coronavirus- genetic analysis


China coronavirus update: A genetic analysis of the virus which already killed 17 people revealed that the new strain might have originated in bats or snake.

The theories are based on examination of the genome sequence of the virus released by authorities in the wake of the outbreak.


A study published in the journal Science China Life Sciences on Tuesday examined the relations between the new strain and other viruses. Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences sponsored the study.

It revealed that the new strain of coronavirus from Wuhan, China was closely related to a strain found in bats.

“Bats being the native host of the Wuhan CoV (coronavirus) would be the logical and convenient reasoning, though it remains likely there was intermediate host(s) in the transmission cascade from bats to humans,” the researchers from several institutions in China wrote in the paper.


Update: Bats, snakes may have caused China coronavirus- genetic analysis

The study did not speculate which animal served as an “intermediate host.”

However, a second study released yesterday in the Journal of Medical Virology identifies snakes as the possible culprit.

“To search for (a) potential virus reservoir, we have carried out a comprehensive sequence analysis and comparison. Results from our analysis suggest that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir,” the paper says.

The researchers, however, clarified that their conclusions require “further validation by experimental studies in animal models.”

The study also did not explain how the new strain of coronavirus has been transferred from animals to humans.

But the researchers said they could help Chinese authorities trace the source of the outbreak. Many countries, including Japan, USA, Macau, Taiwan, and possibly the Philippines, recorded their first cases of the China coronavirus.

Gao Fu, director of the Chinese center for disease control and prevention, said in Beijing on Wednesday that authorities believe the virus likely came from “wild animals at the seafood market,” though the exact source remains undetermined.

The Wuhan food markets are known to sell exotic wildlife such as live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, camel meat, and others.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, was linked to the Chinese consumption of civet meat.