According to a recent study, bats are likely the cause of Wuhan’s coronavirus after scientists discovered that its virus DNA is 96 percent identical to the one found in the animal.
As of today, the virus already killed 362 people and as the demand for a way to reverse its effects heightens, experts conducted several tests on different wild animals to trace its source.
With the help of modern technology, a group of virologists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology headed by Zheng-Li Shi tested samples from seven coronavirus patients experiencing severe pneumonia. Six of those patients were workers at the Wuhan wet market, where the first cases of coronavirus were reported way back December.
Their team discovered that full-length genome sequences, which determine the virus DNA, from five of the patients, were almost 100 percent identical to each other.
Scientists also compared it with the TG13, a coronavirus in bats, and found the virus sequence is 96 percent identical at the whole-genome level to a bat coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Skinner, a virologist at the Imperial College London stated:
“The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.”
“We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been”
“But the high level of sequence similarity between nCOV and TG13 is not really compatible with some of the more exotic hosts that were considered earlier in the epidemic.”
Zheng-Li Shi and his team of virologists also discovered that the new coronavirus shared 79.5 percent sequence identity with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and it enters the host’s body through the same route – via a cell receptor called ACE2.
This finding suggests that while there are some genetic differences between the novel coronavirus and SARS, their structures remain similar.
As scientists worldwide race to create a vaccine, which may take years, the epidemic’s official death toll continues to soar from 57 to 361 in China, with numbers of confirmed cases rising day in and day out.
A virology professor at the University of Reading reported:
“These scientific discoveries provide formal evidence for what is already widely known.”
“2019-nCoV is a bat virus, and SARS-CoV, which caused an epidemic in 2002-2003, is the closest relative seen previously in people.”
“Most encouragingly though, this indicates that treatments and vaccines developed for SARS should also work for the Wuhan virus.”