The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than one million people since it first appeared in China’s Hubei Province last November. The virus, which triggers flu-like symptoms and pneumonia, was originally traced to a busy wet market in Wuhan City, Hubei. Scientists have since questioned the theory, suggesting the coronavirus may have been spread by wild animals like bats or pangolins.
According to Dr Piotr Tryjanowski from the University of Life Sciences in Poznań, Poland, circumstantial evidence suggests wild animals may have been the culprit after all.
He told Nauka w Polsce: “Yes, it is true, but the key word is most likely.
“It is incredible how the study of zoonotic viruses has literally accelerated before our very own eyes.
“Practically every single day new works, hypotheses, verifications appear, and in a few days it might be practically outdated, or rather, clarified.
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“However, knowing the lifecycles of bats, pangolins, and primarily humans, as well as their inter-relations, we can say with great certainty of a zoonotic nature in SARS-CoV-2.”
The coronavirus family of pathogens is zoonotic, meaning they infect both humans and animals alike.
There are, however, only seven strains of coronavirus that are known to attack humans.
SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh and most recently discovered strain.
The other six are alpha coronaviruses 229E and NL63, and the beta coronaviruses OC43, HKU1, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.
If bats are indeed responsible for the coronavirus outbreak, it would not be the first time they have caused a global health scare.
Yes, it is true, but the key word is most likely
Dr Piotr Tryjanowski, University of Life Sciences in Poznań
Between 2002 and 2003, some 8,000 people were infected with the SARS coronavirus, which was traced back to bats and Asian civet cats.
Bats may have also been responsible for the 2012 outbreak of MERS-CoV or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.
Dr Tryjanowski said: “It is not that an animal suddenly attacked or bit someone, quite the opposite.
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“People kill these animals to underline their status or they supposedly use traditional Chinese medical recipes and a tragedy is ready.
“Furthermore, the lifecycle of bats. Viruses use their ability to fly to spread and acquire new hosts.”
But the jury is still out on the coronavirus’ origin and scientists are yet to provide any definite answers.
What is certain, however, is the virus did not have a human origin, as some conspiracy theorists have claimed.
The UK Bat Conservation Trust said: “The animal origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, has not yet been confirmed.
“It may have originated from a coronavirus that has been found in a single species of bat in China, which is similar to but NOT the same as SARS-CoV-2.
“There is evidence that whatever the origins, the virus reached humans through an intermediary species such as pangolin, with the virus mutating along the way so as to be able to infect humans.”
To curb the spread of the coronavirus, countries like the UK and Italy have issued nationwide lockdowns.
As scientists scramble to develop a coronavirus vaccine, self-isolation and good personal hygiene is the best way to slow down infection rates.
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