As infectious disease experts continue to investigate the true origin of the Covid pandemic, new research is making a breakthrough. case of pangolins as intermediaries between the original animal host and humans.
The latest report on the possible origins of Covid was published this week in Nature and was led by virus expert Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina.
The research team discovered that the strain of coronavirus harbored in this rare animal was almost identical to the one that has struck humans, leading them to theorize that the first cases of coronavirus likely jumped from pangolins to immunocompromised people.
This gave the new virus ample opportunity to mutate and replicate until it reached its maximum pandemic potential.
Pangolins have long been suspected of being the original intermediaries, but there is another group of scientists who insist that the pandemic had its origins in a leak from the Chinese Institute of Virology in Wuhan, a theory supported by some US intelligence agencies.
The strain of coronavirus harbored in pangolins (the animals first accused of transmitting the coronavirus from bats to humans) was found to be nearly identical to the genetic makeup of the strain that infects people, suggesting it transmitted a mutated version to infect people.
While China has tried to insist that the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have begun to entertain the possibility that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, raising suspicions that officials Chinese hid evidence of early spread.
Scientists studying the origins of Covid-19, an ongoing effort that began in the early days of the pandemic, set out to trace the virus’s genetic lineage.
Genome sequencing, a process of determining the genetic coding of a virus to understand how it works, revealed that a coronavirus in pangolins shared more than 90 percent of the same qualities as the strain that infects people.
Coronavirus experts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tokyo noted in their study that multiple coronaviruses have emerged from animals in the 21st century and ‘SARS-CoV -2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) probably originated from strains that circulated in bats or other mammals.’
The team tested the strain on pangolins in the animals’ nose cells and found that it was adept at multiplying, suggesting it was highly adaptable to attacking humans.
Based on findings that the animal strain bound to more receptors, had airborne transmission and had pronounced growth in its nasal cells, the researchers said they could “suggest that individual pangolins, or perhaps some other rare species of wildlife , were productively infected and served as a nearly untraceable species of transmission that transmitted viruses to humans.
Pangolins are rare; Scientists aren’t even sure how many remain in the wild.
They are also an elusive species that scientists find difficult to find in the wild, although they are native to Africa and Asia. However, they are the most trafficked species in the world, especially in Asia, because their meat is considered a delicacy.
Previous research on an animal host of origin has produced mixed results.
In early 2020, researchers at South China Agricultural University proposed the theory that pangolins served as an “intermediate host” based on genetic sequencing, but that the virus did not originate from the animal.
After analyzing more than 1,000 samples from wild animals, scientists at the university discovered that the genome sequences of the viruses found in pangolins were 99 percent identical to those of coronavirus patients.
On the other hand, a 2021 Oxford University study reported that there is “no evidence” that a single bat or pangolin was kept in China’s wet markets, leading researchers there to conclude that these species, frequently blamed for Covid-19, “they were not the probable contagion.” host at the source of the coronavirus’.
This latest theory, which points to pangolins as intermediary animals, with bats as the original hosts, contradicts arguments made primarily by Republican lawmakers that the virus likely leaked from a laboratory within the Wuhan Institute of Technology.
The WIV specializes in the study of coronaviruses, particularly those that originate in bats.
Still, the authors insisted that “although speculative, a variety of data support this hypothesis” that the virus mutated in pangolins to become infectious among humans.
Their findings were published Monday in the journal nature microbiology.