Snakes Are Probably The Reason Behind The Deadly Coronavirus In China

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Snakes Are Probably The Reason Behind The Deadly Coronavirus In China

The Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra are thought to likely be the source of the newly discovered coronavirus, which triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China and then other countries around the world.


The virus was reported first in late December 2019 in Wuhan, a major Chinese city, and has since been rapidly spreading. Sick travelers from Wuhan infected people in China and other countries.


Using samples of the virus, scientists in the country have determined the genetic code of the virus and used microscopes to capture it.


The pathogen responsible for the pandemic is a new coronavirus. It is in the same family of viruses as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) as well as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that have killed hundreds of people in the past two decades.


The name of the virus comes from its shape, which resembles a crown or solar corona when imaged using an electron microscope.


Snakes Are Probably The Reason Behind The Deadly Coronavirus In China

Casanowe/Getty Images


Coronavirus is transmitted through the air and mainly infects the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract of mammals and birds. Although most of the members of the coronavirus family just cause mild flu-like symptoms during infection, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV can infect upper and lower airways and cause serious respiratory illness and other complications in humans.


The new 2019-nCoV causes similar symptoms to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. People infected with the coronavirus suffer a serious inflammatory response.


Alas, there's no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment available for coronavirus infection.


SARS and MERS are classified as zoonotic viral diseases. This means the first patients that were infected acquired those viruses directly from animals. That was possible because while in the animal host, the virus acquired a series of genetic mutations. These allowed it to infect and multiply inside humans.


The viruses can now be transmitted from person to person. Field studies have revealed that the source of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV is the bat and that the masked palm civets (a mammal native to Asia and Africa) and camels, respectively, served as intermediate hosts between bats and humans.


In the case of this 2019 coronavirus outbreak, reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalized were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market which also sold processed meats and live consumable animals including poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs, and reptiles.


Nevertheless, as nobody has reported finding a coronavirus infecting aquatic animals, it's plausible that the coronavirus might have originated from other animals sold in that market.


The study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV demonstrates that the new virus is most closely related to two SARS-like coronavirus samples found in bats in China, initially suggesting that the bat may also be the origin of 2019-nCoV.


The scientists used an analysis of the protein codes that was favored by the new coronavirus. They compared it to the protein codes from coronaviruses found in different animal hosts, like birds, snakes, marmots, hedgehogs, manis, bats and humans. Surprisingly, they found that the protein codes in the 2019-nCoV are most similar to those used in snakes.


Snakes often hunt for bats in the wild. According to reports, snakes were sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan, increasing the possibility that the 2019-nCoV may have jumped from the bats – host species – to snakes and afterward to humans at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Yet, how the virus could adapt to both the cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts is still a mystery.


The authors of the study and other researchers should verify the origin of the virus through laboratory experiments.


Nevertheless, since the outbreak, the seafood market has been disinfected and shut down.


The 2019-nCoV outbreak is another reminder that we humans should limit the consumption of wild animals to prevent zoonotic infections.

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Thinking Humanity: Snakes Are Probably The Reason Behind The Deadly Coronavirus In China
Snakes Are Probably The Reason Behind The Deadly Coronavirus In China
The Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra are thought to likely be the source of the newly discovered coronavirus, which triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China and then other countries around the world.
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