Pangolins may have transmitted coronavirus to humans: Study

By Dr S V N Vijayendra

Mysuru, April 4:- Coronaviruses are zoonotic viruses that can transmit between people and animals. Several studies have indicated that bats are natural reservoirs for a large number of zoonotic viruses (Hendra, Nipah, rabies virus, etc) and they have caused many outbreaks in different countries. According to the World Health Organisation, viruses like (severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle-East respiratory syndrome –Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) are transmitted from civet cats and dromedary camels, respectively.

However, it is believed that these viruses also originated from bats and later entered other animals. Bats account for a quarter of all mammals and they have developed stronger immune systems through the process of evolution. Though bats harbour many viruses, they do not get infected by the viruses they host. The SARS virus outbreak that claimed around 800 deaths in more than 12 countries between 2002 and 2004 is found to be in horseshoe variety of bats in 2017.

File photo of Pangolin

Similarly, researchers from Wuhan (the city from where the current COVID-19 originated) Institute of Virology in China traced the origin of the SARS to horseshoe bats living in caves of Yunnan province. However, based on the differences in the composition of the spike protein of COVID-19 virus, a very recent report published in American Chemical Society journal indicated that the current COVID-19 virus could have transmitted to humans via pangolins rather than bats.

Researchers of the American Society of Microbiology had predicted way back in 2007 itself about the emergence of SARS-like coronavirus epidemic due to the formation of new genotypes that may lead to outbreaks like a time bomb, especially because of the peculiar eating habits of eating exotic mammals in southern China and warned not to ignore the preparedness to fight it when it emerges at later period.

Earlier to this, scientists had also warned in 2003 about the possibility for long-term affliction by coronaviruses. However, this study could not get the attention of the governments across the globe and it became very much true now after 13 years.

In the absence of any vaccine or medicines to control the tiny coronaviruses, they have taken upper hand and resulted in a serious pandemic leading to economic and human loss. It is reported earlier that even in India, some people eat freshly dead bats. The current pandemic has taught us not to eat wild animals as they pose a serious threat of viral infections. (The writer is a regular contributor to City Today and Traffic Warden and member, City Traffic Advisory Committee, Mysuru)

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