It is important to keep in mind that all coronaviruses are zoonoses. They are diseases that spread from animals to humans. So ultimately most coronaviruses came from an animal source. Let’s take a look at the different sources of the corona virus and the research findings that have been documented about it.
1 The Pangolin: Is It Really The Source?
The latest research jointly conducted by researchers such as South China Agricultural University, Lingnan Modern Agricultural Science and Technology Guangdong Laboratory indicates that the pangolin maybe an intermediate host.
The similarity between the pangolin and human viruses was reported to be 99% which would have solved the mystery. It is also the reason why suddenly the pangolin was all over the news.
However, the truth was that the 99% match was true when the researchers compared parts of the virus genome, not the whole genome. An analysis comparing whole genomes revealed that it was only a 90% match. So, most probably it is not the source- although it could be an intermediate host.
2 Bats Were Also Implicated in SARS
Bats were also implicated in the SARS outbreak. SARS is another type of coronavirus that spread in 2003. Here are some quick facts according to the WHO:
- The disease appeared in November 2002 in the Guangdong province of southern China
- SARS spread to 26 countries
- It resulted in more than 8000 cases in 2003
What about the source?
Well, although this has never been confirmed, the most probable source was bats (again!). The virus is thought to have spread from bats to another animal- the civet cats. The first animal to human transmission occurred in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002. Sound familiar?
3 MERS-virus Was Also Linked to Bats
The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is another respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The full name of the virus is Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus or MERS‐CoV. According to the WHO:
- This virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
- MERs spread to 26 countries
- Its mortality rate was estimated to be 35%
How about the source?
The initial cases showed that humans were infected through direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels. However, it is believed that MERS originated in bats and was then transmitted to camels before infecting humans.
MERS was also a big health concern, but its spread was not as extensive as SARS or COVID and the majority( 80%) of cases occurred due to direct contact with camels or infected individuals.
4 The Bat Is The Closest Match To COVID-19 But There Is A Catch
By far the highest match was found between bat coronaviruses and the COVID-19. Researchers have indicated that the genomes match up - some papers are reporting up to a 96% match.
So did the bat coronavirus jump to humans? Well, it's not that simple. Research shows that the viruses are similar but the way they bind to cells is very different
Findings indicate that the bat could be the source, but the virus probably went through another intermediate host (animal) before evolving into its current form and infecting humans.
How about those social media posts about the bat soup being the real source? Nah, that's probably not true.
5 China Has Banned Eating Wild Animals
China has recently made the consumption of wild animals illegal. This step is much needed although it comes very late. There are many markets throughout China hat are similar to the Wuhan marketplace where the outbreak is thought to have originated.
The ban will help but may not suffice. There is a large illegal market for the trade of wild animals so this ban will only address part of the problem.
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