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Coronavirus may have been transmitted from snakes

Date: 28 January 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


The novel Chinese coronavirus, which has so far claimed several lives and infected hundreds of people, likely resided in snakes before being transmitted to humans, according to a new study.



The study offers insights on the origins of the most recent outbreak of pneumonia caused by the virus, which started in the middle of December 2019 in the city of Wuhan in China.



  • The researchers said that patients who became infected with the coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization (WHO), were exposed to wildlife animals at a wholesale market, where seafood, poultry, snake, bats, and farm animals were sold.

  • Conducting a detailed genetic analysis of the 2019-nCoV, and comparing it with those of different coronaviruses from various geographic locations and host species found that the new virus formed from a combination of CoV found in bats, and another of unknown origin.

  • The new virus developed a mix, or “recombination”, of a viral protein which recognises and binds to host cells. This recognition is the key to allow viruses to enter host cells, and cause infection and disease.

  • On further analysis, the researchers found evidence that the 2019-nCoV may have resided in snakes before being transmitted to humans. The findings suggest that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV.

  • Researchers also said that there is very likely to be an intermediate non-bat host which would have picked up the virus from bats.

  • They said recombination within the viral receptor-binding protein may have allowed for cross-species transmission from snake to humans.

  • The new virus is similar to the one which caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

  • However, the study noted that unlike the SARS-CoV, the 2019-nCoV causes a mild form of viral pneumonia, and has limited capability for person-person spread.


  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes.

  • Common symptoms of the 2019-nCoV strain include respiratory ailments such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

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