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Online Discussion: Tracking new emerging diseases and the next pandemic; Coronavirus Pandemic Discussion Forum.

Snakes may be source of virus

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    Posted: January 22 2020 at 7:03pm
https://www.sciencealert.com/snakes-are-the-likely-source-of-china-s-deadly-coronavirus-here-s-why
HUMANS
Snakes Are The Likely Source of China's Deadly Coronavirus. Here's Why
HAITAO GUO ET AL., THE CONVERSATION 23 JAN 2020
Snakes – the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra – may be the original source of the newly discovered coronavirus that has triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China this winter.In the case of this 2019 coronavirus outbreak, reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalized were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market which also sold processed meats and live consumable animals including poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles.

However, since no one has ever reported finding a coronavirus infecting aquatic animals, it is plausible that the coronavirus may have originated from other animals sold in that market.

The hypothesis that the 2019-nCoV jumped from an animal at the market is strongly supported by a new publication in the Journal of Medical Virology. The scientists conducted an analysis and compared the genetic sequences of 2019-nCoV and all other known coronaviruses.

The study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV reveals that the new virus is most closely related to two bat SARS-like coronavirus samples from China, initially suggesting that, like SARS and MERS, the bat might also be the origin of 2019-nCoV.

The authors further found that the DNA coding sequence of 2019-nCoV spike protein, which forms the "crown" of the virus particle that recognizes the receptor on a host cell, indicates that the bat virus might have mutated before infecting people.

But when the researchers performed a more detailed bioinformatics analysis of the sequence of 2019-nCoV, it suggests that this coronavirus might come from snakes.

From bats to snakes
The researchers used an analysis of the protein codes favored by the new coronavirus and compared it to the protein codes from coronaviruses found in different animal hosts, like birds, snakes, marmots, hedgehogs, manis, bats and humans. Surprisingly, they found that the protein codes in the 2019-nCoV are most similar to those used in snakes.

Snakes often hunt for bats in wild. Reports indicate that snakes were sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan, raising the possibility that the 2019-nCoV might have jumped from the host species – bats – to snakes and then to humans at the beginning of this coronavirus outbreak.

However, how the virus could adapt to both the cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts remains a mystery.

The authors of the report and other researchers must verify the origin of the virus through laboratory experiments. Searching for the 2019-nCoV sequence in snakes would be the first thing to do. However, since the outbreak, the seafood market has been disinfected and shut down, which makes it challenging to trace the new virus' source animal.

Sampling DNA from animals sold at the market and from wild snakes and bats is needed to confirm the origin of the virus. Nonetheless, the reported findings will also provide insights for developing prevention and treatment ..
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