Three articles submitted for publication, at the end of 2019, linked with 99% certainty that the Covid-19 Corona SARS virus originated out of a species of Asian pangolin in Wuhan wet market in central China. File Picture
Three articles submitted for publication, at the end of 2019, linked with 99% certainty that the Covid-19 Corona SARS virus originated out of a species of Asian pangolin in Wuhan wet market in central China. File Picture

Jury still out on what species caused coronavirus pandemic outbreak

By Sheree Bega Time of article published Mar 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - Coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, which spread from animals to people. Endangered pangolins made global headlines recently when researchers linked them to the carrying and the transmission of the deadly coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.

But Ray Jansen, chairperson of the African Pangolin Working Group, remains sceptical as to the actual species that was the intermediate host to infect humans with a mutated SARS coronavirus into the Covid-19 strain.

“Three articles submitted for publication, at the end of 2019, linked with 99% certainty that the Covid-19 Corona SARS virus originated out of a species of Asian pangolin in Wuhan wet market in central China.

“However, they failed to do the whole genome. They only did the outer binding surface genome of that particular coronavirus strain and then linked it to a strain in a pangolin. But when they later investigated the whole genome for the coronavirus extracted from humans and pangolins, it was only 90% similar.

“That’s where it still is today. However, there’s a 97% similarity between the human coronavirus, Covid-19 and the virus isolated in a species of Asian bat, more than likely a horseshoe bat, which is the natural host for these coronaviruses.”

“We don’t know what species of animal the virus jumped from in the market, probably from a horseshoe bat to something else, and that intermediate host has yet to be identified. It is that host that was probably consumed by people, with the intermediate host more than likely picking up the bat faeces that was still able to contain the coronavirus. Then it mutated into a version where the protein layer is compatible to entering the cells of human beings.

“Any further light on this matter is still pending and we don’t know what the intermediate host is. It may very well still be a pangolin, but we simply don’t know until further studies and investigations are undertaken,” says Jansen.

China has now banned the trade and consumption of wild animals. 

Saturday Star

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