Scientists may have found the first breakthrough in their fight against the deadly coronavirus. In an article published in the Journal of Medical Virology, scientists have traced the origin of the outbreak in China to snakes. This could help in developing an effective remedy against the virus. Coronaviruses are a large family which include viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome and the Middle East respiratory syndrome. The latest virus was named 2019-nCoV.
Scientists believe that the outbreak originated at a wholesale market where people were exposed to wildlife and farm animals, including poultry, seafood, bats, and snakes. A detailed genetical analysis of the virus was conducted by a team of microbiologists from the Peking University Health Science Center School of Basic Medical Sciences in Beijing. The team compared the virus with all the available information on the genetic make-up of different viruses from different host species and geographical locations.
Detailed investigation revealed that the virus appeared to be a combination of a virus found in bats and another virus of unknown origin. This recombined virus attaches itself to host cells. Evidence showed that this host was most likely to be a snake. The ability of the virus to bind with the receptor cells in a new host may have also resulted in the cross-species transmission from snakes to humans.