The coronavirus could have transmitted to humans through the illegal trafficking of pangolins. It is the only scale-covered mammal that exists, Chinese scientists said. The epidemic has already killed the lives of at least 636 people and infected more than 30,000.
Researchers considered that the outbreak emerged in a market in the city of Wuhan, in the Chinese province of Hubei, which also sold live wild animals.
Health experts believe that the virus could have originated in bats and moved from there to humans, probably through other species.
China Researchers believed that pangolin could be a key animal in transmission to people.
The genome sequence of the new strain obtained from the pangolins studied was 99% identical to that of infected people, the official Chinese press agency Xinhua reported.
The note adds that the research found that pangolins were “the most likely intermediate host.”
But Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary medicine at the City University of Hong Kong, did not agree. He said that the study could not prove that pangolins were the virus transmitters.
He said to researchers that they could only reach more definitive conclusions by analyzing the prevalence (of the coronavirus) among different species based on representative samples, which these were definitely not.
What is Pangolins?
The pangolin is a solitary mammal with nocturnal habits. When he senses a threat, he covers his head with his front legs, revealing only his scale armor.
The most trafficked mammal in the world, Pangolin, is one of the most smuggled animals in Asia. But international laws protected them. Asian and African people considered their meal a delicious food. And their scales used in medicine, according to the World Wildlife Fund ( WWF).
Traffickers illegally traded almost one hundred thousand pangolins every year in Asia and Africa. Wild animal traffickers prefer it to the elephant and rhinoceros, according to the NGO WildAid.
“The most recent discoveries will be of great importance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the virus),” The Agricultural University of South China, which led the study, said in a statement on its website.