The newly emerged coronavirus did not spill over from scaly anteaters

7-May-2020 12:45 PM EDT, by PLOS

Newswise — Mammals known as scaly anteaters are natural hosts of coronaviruses, but are not likely the direct source of the recent outbreak in humans, according to a study published May 14 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by Jinping Chen of the Guangdong Institute of Applied Biological Resources, and colleagues. As noted by the authors, the large-scale surveillance of coronaviruses in these animals, called pangolins, could improve our understanding of the spectrum of coronaviruses circulating in the wild, and could help prevent and control emerging infectious diseases. 

Last December, an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emerged in Wuhan, China. Recent studies have shown that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – the virus that causes COVID-19 – could have originated in bats. But SARS-CoV-2 may have spilled over to humans from another intermediate host, and the source of this virus is still unknown. To effectively control the disease and prevent new spillovers, it is critical to identify the animal origin of this newly emerging coronavirus. In the new study, Chen and colleagues examined whether pangolins could be an intermediate host for SARS-CoV-2. 

The researchers assembled the whole genome of a coronavirus identified in two groups of sick Malayan pangolins. The results suggest that the pangolin coronavirus is genetically associated with SARS-CoV-2 and a group of bat coronaviruses. But further analysis suggests that SARS-CoV-2 did not arise directly from the pangolin coronavirus. Although this study does not support the idea that pangolins are an intermediate host directly responsible for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, it is possible that other coronaviruses could be circulating in pangolins. According to the authors, wildlife conservation and limited exposure to wildlife will be important to minimize the risk that coronaviruses will spill over from wild animals to humans. 

The authors state, “Pangolins could be natural hosts of Betacoronaviruses with an unknown potential to infect humans. However, our study does not support that SARS-CoV-2 evolved directly from the pangolin-CoV.”

 

Funding: This project was supported by wildlife disease monitoring and early warning system maintenance project from National Forestry and Grassland Administration (2019072) to Chen JP, GDAS Special Project of Science and Technology Development (grant number 2020GDASYL-20200103090, 2018GDASCX-0107) to Liu P.,Guangzhou Science Technology and Innovation Commission (grant number 201804020080) to Chen JP, Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 31972847) to Jiang JZ, Guangzhou science and technology project (grant number 2019001) to Chen JP. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. 

 

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

 

Citation: Liu P, Jiang J-Z, Wan X-F, Hua Y, Li L, Zhou J, et al. (2020) Are pangolins the intermediate host of the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)? PLoS Pathog 16(5): e1008421. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008421

 

Author Affiliations:

Guangdong Academy of Science, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, United States of America

Guangdong Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Guangdong Provincial Wildlife Rescue Center, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China  

 

Press-Only Preview of the Article: http://plos.io/ppat-1008421 

 

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1008421

 

About PLOS Pathogens

PLOS 
Pathogens is the first Open Access journal for breakthroughs in understanding pathogens and their interactions with host organisms. The journal publishes original research and commentary that yield novel insights into pathogenesis that are of broad interest and importance to researchers studying pathogens and pathogen-host interactions.  For more information, visit http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens, and follow @PLOSPathogens on Twitter.

 

Media and Copyright Information

For information about PLOS Pathogens relevant to journalists, bloggers and press officers, including details of our press release process and embargo policy, visit http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/s/press-and-media

PLOS journals publish under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits free reuse of all materials published with the article, so long as the work is cited. 

 

About the Public Library of Science
Public Library of Science (PLOS) is a nonprofit Open Access (OA) publisher, innovator and advocacy organization dedicated to accelerating progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. The PLOS suite of journals contain rigorously peer-reviewed Open Access research articles from all areas of science and medicine, together with expert commentary and analysis. In addition to journals, the organization advances innovations in scientific publishing through Collections, Communities and The PLOS Blog Network. Founded to catalyze a revolution in scientific publishing by demonstrating the value and feasibility of Open Access publication, PLOS is committed to innovative and forward-looking solutions to scientific communication. For more information, visit https://www.plos.org/who-we-are.
 

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