Where Did the New Coronavirus Come From? Snakes

A new study suggests snakes may be the source of the new coronavirus causing an outbreak in China.

The new deadly virus may have ‘jumped’ to humans from snakes. Pretty surprising, no?

The new study analyzed the genetic sequence of the new virus, 2019-nCoV, and compared it with the genetic sequences of more than 200 other coronaviruses from around the world that infect various animals. Surprisingly, they found that the snakes are the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for this virus.

What are coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, while others infect animals, including camels, cats and bats.

In rare cases, coronaviruses in animals can evolve to infect people and then spread between people.

This was the case with SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and appears to be the case with 2019-nCoV.

Origin of the new coronavirus

The scientists found that 2019-nCoV is a mix of two coronaviruses: one that is known to infect bats and another unknown coronavirus. 

The researchers analyzed the genetic sequence of 2019-nCoV and found that the virus may have come from snakes. This would be the first time that snakes are the most probable wildlife animal reservoir.

The two types of snakes common to southeastern China are Bungarus multicinctus – the many-banded krait – and Naja atra – Chinese cobra.

It is worth saying that snakes are among the animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where many initial cases worked or visited before they became ill.

Finally, the study shows that 2019-nCoV mutated one of its viral proteins that recognizes and binds to receptors on host cells. It is maybe this change that enabled 2019-nCoV to jump from snakes to humans.

Coronavirus epidemics January 2020

These are the symptoms of the new china coronavirus and how it spreads. Picture via Sun

There are more than 500 confirmed cases and 17 deaths linked to the virus in China. The virus has been detected in travelers to Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as a resident of the United States who had recently visited Wuhan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) held a committee meeting today to determine whether the virus constitutes an international public health emergency. However, the committee did not reach a final decision on this topic, and will reconvene tomorrow.

China coronavirus infections soar to 830 with 25 deaths as WHO says it’s too early to declare global emergency

FILE PHOTO: A worker in a protective suit is seen at the closed seafood market in Wuhan, China, the suspected origin point of a novel coronavirus gripping the country. ©  Reuters / Stringer

The World Health Organization (WHO) held off designating a new fast-spreading coronavirus as an international health threat, but did deem it a crisis within China, where the pathogen has infected some 830 people and killed 25.

After two days of meetings, WHO determined it was a “bit too early” to label the outbreak an international health emergency on Thursday at a conference in Geneva, despite the rapidly rising disease toll.

“Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding: “It has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

China’s National Health Commission updated the latest figures on the virus’ impact across the country on the heels of the WHO decision, confirming a total of 830 infections and 25 fatalities, with an additional 8,420 “close contacts.”

The virus has traveled well beyond its epicenter in Wuhan – a city of 11 million and a major transport hub – claiming its first life outside its point of origin earlier this week. Wuhan itself was locked down on Wednesday, with all travel in and out of the city shut down indefinitely as health officials scramble to contain the outbreak.

Earlier on Thursday, Chinese officials announced that it would ramp up quarantine efforts, expanding travel restrictions to the cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, while Beijing has canceled all major public gatherings, including New Year celebrations set for later this month.

Infections have also been confirmed in Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States, prompting health authorities in the affected countries and elsewhere to set up screenings at airports in hopes of detecting signs of the illness, which include severe pneumonia-like symptoms.