Chinese scientists found coronaviruses very close to SARS-CoV-2 virus from Malay pangolins, which were illegally imported into China, responsible for the COVID pandemic – , an article in the journal Nature.
Bats are considered the primary source of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but an intermediate animal was required to transmit it to humans. In previous epidemics caused by the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV coronaviruses, such intermediate species were palm civets and dromedaries in which the coronavirus is on 99, 8% coincided with the fact that it infected people, RIA Novosti reports.
A transient species of animals in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutated to the “human” variant has not yet been found. The search for coronavirus carrier animal species is hindered by the fact that the seafood market in Wuhan, with which the onset of the outbreak is associated, has been eliminated.
In civet and snakes, the degree of proximity of the found coronaviruses was insufficient.
Another possible option was considered: pangolins, which have the same types of coronaviruses as bats. These animals are illegally brought to China from Malaysia, their meat is considered a delicacy, scales are used in traditional medicine.
Scientists analyzed frozen tissue and blood samples of pangolins that were taken during anti-smuggling operations in southern China in 2017 – 560 years. Samples from of the animal were studied, and coronaviruses were found in nine.
The results of metagenomic sequencing showed a strong – on 31 – 85% – the similarity of the lines of these coronaviruses with SARS-CoV-2. In one sample, similarities were found in the region of the genome that encodes the S-protein, which deals with the addition of spikes of the virus, giving it the appearance of a corona and responsible for penetration into host cells. However, the detected viruses lack specific changes in the sequences that were detected in human SARS-CoV-2.
In this regard, the authors of the article cannot say with certainty that it is pangolins that are intermediate hosts of the coronavirus. The degree of similarity with the human must be at least %). However, the very fact of the presence of potentially deadly coronaviruses in pangolins requires, according to scientists, the authorities to take urgent measures to strictly prohibit the sale of meat and parts of the shell of these animals on the markets.
Back in February, the head of the expert committee of the State Committee on Health Care of the People's Republic of China, Liang Wannian, said that the intermediate owners of the new type of coronavirus COVID – 2019 can be pangolins.
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