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Are pangolins the intermediate host of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) ?

By Ping Liu, Jing-Zhe Jiang, Xiu-Feng Wan, Yan Hua, Xiaohu Wang, Fanghui Hou, Jing Chen, Jiejian Zou, Jinping Chen

Posted 20 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.18.954628 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008421)

The outbreak of 2019-nCoV pneumonia (COVID-19) in the city of Wuhan, China has resulted in more than 60,000 laboratory confirmed cases, and recent studies showed that 2019-nCoV (SARS-CoV-2) could be of bat origin but involve other potential intermediate hosts. In this study, we assembled the genomes of coronaviruses identified in sick pangolins. The molecular and phylogenetic analyses showed that pangolin Coronaviruses (pangolin-CoV) are genetically related to both the 2019-nCoV and bat Coronaviruses but do not support the 2019-nCoV arose directly from the pangolin-CoV. Our study also suggested that pangolin be natural host of Betacoronavirus, with a potential to infect humans. Large surveillance of coronaviruses in pangolins could improve our understanding of the spectrum of coronaviruses in pangolins. Conservation of wildlife and limits of the exposures of humans to wildlife will be important to minimize the spillover risks of coronaviruses from wild animals to humans.

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