Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammals. International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, listed Pangolin as critically endangered mammals. Pangolins live in African and Asian forests. The mammals have medicinal value and are consumed in countries like China and Vietnam.
Hubei province and Guangdong province are the principal trade centres of China’s Pangolin trade.
According to researchers at the South China Agricultural University; the scaly mammal, Pangolin is a potential intermediate host of the coronavirus. The virus first started in a live animal market in Wuhan central China late last year.
A professor, Mr Shen Yongyi and a member of the research team; said that, previous research had found that bats were the original carriers. He also added that it was highly unlikely for people to have been directly affected by hibernating bats.
After the scientists tested more than a thousand samples of wild animals; they found the genome sequence found on pangolins to be a 99% match to those on coronavirus patients.
Scientists further added that molecular biological detection revealed that; the positive rate of Beta coronavirus was at 70% in pangolins which led them to isolate the virus and observe the structure and that’s when they came out with the 99% match.
After the outbreak, China placed a temporary ban on the sale of wildlife and their products. Birds and animals are in the centre of how and where the virus originated. At some point snakes too were blamed for spreading the virus.
In past epidemics, virus carriers have been pigs, chickens, ducks and camels. The scientists also traced the 2002-3 SARS (Severe Acute Syndrome) to wild animals. The scientist said that it likely originated from bats and spread by civets as the carriers.
Global head of wildlife research at World Animal Protection, Neil D’Cruze said that; a permanent ban on wildlife trade around the world, could help prevent deadly disease such us Novel Coronavirus outbreaks.
The head of veterinary medicine department, in Britain’s Cambridge University, James Wood, said that the research was far from being certain. He added that the evidence of pangolins involvement has not been officially published other than by the universities press release and that it is not scientific evidence.
A professor in molecular Virology in Britain’s Nottingham University said that the research was an interesting development. However, it was still unclear and that they would need to see all the genetic data and get a feel of how human and Pangolin viruses are related.