According to Chinese researchers,the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China could have spread from bats to humans through the illegal traffic of pangolins, which are prized in Asia for food and medicine.
Despite being protected by international law,the pangolin is one of Asia’s most trafficked mammals because its meat is considered a delicacy in countries such as China and its scales are used in traditional medicine.
The genome sequence of the novel coronavirus strain separated from pangolins in the study was 99% identical to that from infected people, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported, adding that the research found that pangolins to be “the most likely intermediate host.” But Dirk Pfeiffer, professor of veterinary medicine at Hong Kong’s City University, cautioned that the study was still a long way from proving pangolins had transmitted the virus.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Ian Lipkin told CBS News on Wednesday that similar viruses will continue to pop up “every couple of years” as long as the so-called wet markets selling a multitude of animal species remain in business. “I want the wild animal markets closed,” Lipkin said.
The death toll from coronavirus has risen to more than 630, with all but two of the deaths in mainland China. More than 31,000 people have been infected with the virus worldwide.