Scientists have discovered that bats are likely the cause of coronavirus infection in China after finding out that the virus is 96 percent identical to one found in the animals.
The virus has left 362 dead so far. It was believed to have been transferred to humans from an animal, but identifying which one has been challenging.
Now, using samples from seven patients with severe pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, scientists have found striking similarities to coronavirus found in bats.
According to them, the DNA is also 79.5 percent identical with the deadly SARS coronavirus, which suggests vaccines for the now non-existent virus may help with this epidemic.
Global cases are now above 17,450, higher than the total recorded cases of the SARS virus that killed some 800 people in 2002 and 2003.
Although scientists stress the animal source of the recent outbreak in China is yet to be officially declared, experts have confirmed a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city is to blame.
A menagerie of live animals, including koalas, rats, and wolf pups, were available at the Huanan Seafood Market in central Wuhan – the outbreak’s epicenter.
While most research has pointed towards bats, research at Peking University implicated snakes as the most likely ‘reservoir’ of the rapidly spreading virus.
The Huanan market was a hotspot with locals, who could choose to buy their meat ‘warm.’
Speaking, Dr. Michael Skinner, a reader in virology at Imperial College London, said: ‘The discovery places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.
‘But the high level of sequence similarity between nCoV and TG13 is not really compatible with some of the more exotic hosts that were considered earlier in the epidemic.’