The coronavirus outbreak is speculated to have occurred at a market in Wuhan, where pangolins are trafficked
SHANGHAI China – The coronavirus outbreak could have been transmitted to humans through the illegal trafficking of pangolins, the only scale-covered mammal in existence, Chinese scientists said.
Pangolins are one of the most widely smuggled mammals in Asia, although they are protected by international law because their meat is considered a delicacy in countries like China, and their scales are used in traditional medicine, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“The most recent findings will be of great importance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the virus)” said the South China Agricultural University, which conducted the study, in a statement on its website.
It is speculated that the outbreak, which has killed hundreds of people in mainland China to date, occurred at a market in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, which also sold live wild animals.
Bats are also suspected
Health experts also believe the outbreak may have originated in bats and passed on to humans, probably through other species.
The genome sequence of the new strain obtained from the pangolins studied, was 99% identical to that of the infected people, reported the official Chinese news agency Xinhua. The note adds that the research found that the pangolins were “the most likely intermediate host”.
But Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary medicine at Hong Kong City University, warned that the study is far from proving that the pangolins were the transmitters of the virus.
“More definitive conclusions can only be reached by comparing the prevalence (of coronavirus) between different species based on representative samples, which these definitely are not,” Pfeiffer said.
Even so, a link to humans has yet to be established through food markets, he added.
The Yucatan Times
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