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Snakes could be the source of deadly new coronavirus

Snakes could be the source of deadly new coronavirus

A study analysing the genetic sequence of the coronavirus causing an outbreak in China suggests it may have been passed to humans from snakes.

Snakes could be the source of deadly new coronavirus

Scientists compared the genomes of five samples of the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, with those of more than 200 other coronaviruses collected from a range of species.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Virology, shows the virus appears to be a recombination of two coronaviruses – one that is known to infect bats and another of unknown origin.

Following further analysis, researchers concluded 2019-nCoV may have come from snakes.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, coronaviruses in animals can evolve to infect people and then spread between people, which appears to be the case for the current strain causing the outbreak.

The virus is believed to have originated from a seafood wholesale market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which was visited by several of those first infected by the virus.

Various live wild and farmed animals were sold at the market including poultry, rabbits, pigs, rats, snakes and bats. The snakes could have caught the virus from the bats in the market.

The authors of the study say more research is needed to confirm the findings.

Measures are being taken around the world to prevent further spread of the deadly virus.

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