Scientists have said that a type of snake may be the original source of the Wuhan coronavirus. However, other infectious disease experts say the ultimate culprit is more likely to be the bat.
“When you look at the genetic sequence of the virus, and you match it up with every known coronavirus, the closest relatives are from bats,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, an environmental health non-profit.
Professor Guizhen Wu of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a study released by the Lancet medical journal on Wednesday that the data they had so far was consistent with the virus being initially hosted by bats.
The bat has long been seen as a biological super villain.
The winged mammal has been the reservoir for several different deadly viruses like Marburg, Nipah and Hendra, which have caused disease in humans and outbreaks in Uganda, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Australia. Bats are thought to be the natural host of the Ebola virus, rabies, SARS and MERS, with the latter two both coronaviruses similar to the one that’s now emerged in Wuhan.
Often, there’s an intermediary involved as was the case with SARS in 2003 — the civet cat — and MERS, which emerged later in the 2000s and was carried by camels.
Scientists call these viruses zoonotic because they are transmitted from animals to humans.
In the case of Nipah virus, which can cause a range of symptoms including fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), infections were traced back to juice made from the sap of a date palm tree that had been contaminated by bat urine or saliva. Bats had