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7 Feb, 2020 14:12

Chinese scientists say pangolins might be missing link in coronavirus transmission

Chinese scientists say pangolins might be missing link in coronavirus transmission

Chinese researchers now believe that the deadly coronavirus may have spread from bats to humans through the illegal sale and trafficking of pangolins, scaly mammals widely used in Eastern medicine.

“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 new research, said in a statement on its website.

Pangolins are among Asia’s most-trafficked animals, with an estimated one million of the armored creatures snatched from Asian and African forests in the past decade despite specific protections under international law. 

 Their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are used in traditional medicine in many Asian countries. 

Researchers tested samples from more than 1,000 wild animals and found that the genetic code of coronavirus strain samples taken from pangolins was 99 percent identical to samples taken from infected humans. 

Worldwide, the coronavirus has killed 636 people while at least 31,000 people have been infected. 

Also on rt.com Coronavirus kills 69 more people in China’s Hubei as total cases soar beyond 31,000

The outbreak is believed to have originated in a market in Wuhan, China which sold wild animals. 

However, these latest findings are far from conclusive as the full study has not been released and has therefore not been peer-reviewed or scrutinized in any meaningful way.

“This is not scientific evidence; investigations into animal reservoirs are extremely important, but results must then be published for international scrutiny to allow proper consideration,” said Professor James Wood, head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge. 

Meanwhile, China ordered a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals in January until the epidemic can be brought under control. 

An outbreak of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) between November 2002 and July 2003 which killed 774 people in 17 countries was eventually traced to bats and researchers now believe it was transmitted to humans via civets, a species of nocturnal mammal.

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