As infectious disease experts continue to investigate the true origins of the Covid pandemic, new research is emerging advocates 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 found that the virus strain in the rare animal was nearly identical to the one that has ravaged humans, leading them to theorize that the first cases of coronavirus likely jumped from pangolins to immunocompromised humans.
This gave the new virus ample opportunity to mutate and replicate until it reached its full pandemic potential.
It has long been suspected that pangolins were the original intermediary, but there is another camp of scientists who insist the pandemic originated in a leak from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a theory that some US intelligence agencies support.
The coronavirus strain found in pangolins – the animals first blamed for transmitting the coronavirus from bats to humans – was found to be nearly identical to the genetic makeup of the strain that infects humans, suggesting that it is a mutated version has passed on to infect humans.
While China has tried to maintain that the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media are beginning to ponder the possibility that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – raising suspicions that Chinese officials may have produced evidence of early have hidden the spread.
Scientists studying the origins of Covid-19, an ongoing effort that began in the early days of the pandemic, sought to trace the genetic lineage of the virus.
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 traits with the strain that infects humans.
The coronavirus experts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tokyo called in their research that multiple coronaviruses have emerged in animals in the 21st century and ‘SARS-CoV’ . -2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) is likely largely derived from strains that circulated in bats and other mammals.”
The team tested the strain in pangolins in the animals’ nasal cells and found that it could multiply well, indicating that the species is highly adapted to attacking humans.
Based on the findings that the animal’s strain bound to more receptors, was transmitted through the air and had a pronounced growth in their nasal cells, the researchers said they could “suggest that individual pangolins, or perhaps another rare species, are productive were infected and served as a virtually untraceable conduit that transmitted viruses to humans.”
Pangolins are rare; scientists don’t even know how many are left in the wild.
It is also an elusive species that scientists have difficulty finding in the wild, even though they are native to Africa and Asia. Yet they are the most traded species in the world, especially within Asia, as their meat is considered a delicacy.
Previous research on a native animal host has produced mixed results.
In early 2020, researchers at South China Agricultural University advanced the theory that pangolins served as an “intermediate host” based on genetic sequencing, but that the virus did not originate from the animal.
After testing more than 1,000 samples from wild animals, university scientists found that the genome sequences of viruses found on pangolins were 99 percent identical to those found on coronavirus patients.
On the other hand, a 2021 study from the University of Oxford reported “no evidence” that a single bat or pangolin was being kept in China’s wet markets, leading researchers there to conclude that these species – which are often the being blamed for Covid-19 – ‘was not the likely spillover effects’. host at the source of the coronavirus’.
This latest theory, which points to pangolins as animal intermediaries, with bats as the original hosts, contradicts arguments from mostly Republican lawmakers that the virus likely leaked from a laboratory within the Wuhan Institute of Technology.
The WIV specializes in research into coronaviruses, especially those originating from bats.
Still, the authors insisted, “Although speculative, a variety of data support this hypothesis” that the virus mutated in pangolins and then became infectious to humans.”
Their findings were published in the journal on Monday Natural microbiology.