Where did the new coronavirus come from? Past outbreaks provide hints

  
Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  5 comments

By:   Denise Chow

Where did the new coronavirus come from? Past outbreaks provide hints
Although finding the source wouldn't necessarily help scientists develop vaccines or other direct treatments, it could provide crucial pieces of information on how it emerged and evolved.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


As scientists and public health officials around the world scramble to contain the   deadly coronavirus outbreak , some researchers are also racing to solve the enduring mystery of where the newly identified virus came from.

The coronavirus, which first sickened people in China in December, is thought to have passed from animals to humans, like many similar pathogens, but nothing has been confirmed yet by any peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency or academic expert. Beyond that, little is known about its origin.

Although finding the source wouldn't necessarily help scientists develop vaccines or other direct treatments, it could provide crucial pieces of information on how it emerged and evolved. And scientists are using lessons learned from previous outbreaks to know how to approach this one.

Early research suggests that the virus closely resembles a known coronavirus harbored in horseshoe bats, according to Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading in England.

"What is not clear is the steps that moved the virus out of the bat, into some intermediate source or sources, and then finally into man," Jones said.

The virus' origin has been the focus of   conspiracy theories and other forms of misinformation . In an interview with Fox News on Feb. 16, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., suggested that the coronavirus may have come from a virology laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak emerged. Others went further by raising the possibility that the virus was a leaked bioweapon.

But scientists say the virus' similarities to known coronaviruses in animals — particularly bats — rule out the idea that it was created in a lab.

To trace a virus to its source, scientists typically look for clues in its molecular makeup. Chinese scientists published the coronavirus' sequenced genome less than two weeks after the first case in humans was reported — a lightning-fast development made possible by advancements in technology.

"This would have taken us six months to a year to do before," said Gene Olinger, a Maryland-based virologist at MRIGlobal, a scientific research organization that is helping to develop diagnostic tools for the coronavirus. "We had those first sequences almost immediately — that's unheard of."

The virus' genome can't tell scientists everything about its source, but the string of DNA sequences functions almost like a blueprint for this type of detective work.

"The closest bat virus that we've seen is not able to infect human cells, so there had to be some intermediate animal," said Carolyn Machamer, a professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. "The bat virus can infect an intermediate animal, and during that replication, mutations arise that could promote infection in humans if they are in close contact."

Many coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, which means they spread from animals to people. And there is precedent for coronavirus outbreaks that originate in bats and spill over into humans through an intermediate animal.

An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003 is thought to have spread from bats to civet cats before the first human patient was infected. And Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, another type of coronavirus, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, most likely passed from bats into dromedary camels before spilling over into humans.

Public health officials suspect that the current outbreak may have originated at a live-animal market in Wuhan, where dozens of workers were infected at the outset. The market has been shut down, but tests on samples from the area have been inconclusive.

In early February, a group of Chinese scientists suggested that   genetic analyses pointed to pangolins   — scaly, long-snouted anteaters — as a likely source of the outbreak. Their research showed that genetic sequences of coronaviruses isolated from pangolins are 99 percent similar to those of the current variant.

Jones said the pangolin theory is plausible, but he cautioned that the findings haven't yet been confirmed by independent scientific research.

Researchers are also still unsure why this coronavirus was transmitted to humans. Mammals and birds are known reservoirs for coronaviruses, but the vast majority of them don't sicken people.

"There are plenty of coronaviruses that cause disease in animal species, but they're not thought to be a risk to humans," Jones said.

That mentality changed after the SARS outbreak, which spread to more than two dozen countries and killed 774 people.

"SARS was really the first human coronavirus to cause severe diseases," said Timothy Sheahan, an epidemiologist at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina. "Prior to that, coronavirus was only known to cause the common cold in people. Then MERS was discovered in 2012 and this virus emerges in 2019. So the fact that a new SARS-like virus has emerged to cause severe respiratory disease in people tells me this is likely going to happen again in the future."

Sheahan is working on possible antiviral drugs to fight the coronavirus, but he said the current outbreak demonstrates the importance of tracing the virus to its origin.

"Understanding the source of the virus will help us prevent spillovers in the future," he said. "From a public health perspective, it's important to flesh that out."


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Buzz of the Orient
1  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago
Chinese scientists published the coronavirus' sequenced genome less than two weeks after the first case in humans was reported — a lightning-fast development made possible by advancements in technology. "
This would have taken us six months to a year to do before," said Gene Olinger, a Maryland-based virologist at MRIGlobal, a scientific research organization that is helping to develop diagnostic tools for the coronavirus. "We had those first sequences almost immediately — that's unheard of."

At least that's an answer to the concern  that China has not been cooperative in sharing information in seeking assistance to find a vaccine and cure.  Surely they have come to realize what a disastrous mistake it was to try to silence the initial warnings.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
2  igknorantzrulz    one month ago

But Trump said it was 'another' Democratic hoax style witch hunt that is obvious just another ploy to try and falsely claim Trump has been the completely innocent individual that 

ALWAYS TELLS THE TRUTH

about not lying, cause it is obviously only 10,000 or so correlations that could never ever be explained as anything but unrelated coincidences that are obvious just randomly associated with any given left for granite, taken uncommon common sense that is lacking in Trump and those who might feel his knumb skull, lacking, is a qualitative strait up trait that any Leader of the Free world should not quantitate, as how much modesty can one man actually be expected to endure in a lifetime of Sainthood...?  

 
 
 
MUVA
2.1  MUVA  replied to  igknorantzrulz @2    one month ago

No Trump said the coverage of the leftist propaganda media is a hoax and he is right.

 
 
 
Sparty On
2.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  MUVA @2.1    one month ago

One wonders if they really believe the bullshit they shovel daily or if its truly just a means to an end for them.

You'll get no odds on either choice from me .....

 
 
 
zuksam
3  zuksam    one month ago

I had read that this virus was thought to have come from a "live meat market" but that was just an early guess but it is a likely source.  From the article "SARS, in 2003 is thought to have spread from bats to civet cats before the first human patient was infected. And Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, another type of coronavirus, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, most likely passed from bats into dromedary camels before spilling over into humans". Think about that next time your cat or dog is licking your face and hands. The worse thing about cats and dogs is they hunt and sick, dying, or dead animals are easy prey, then you have to wonder what was making the dying animal sick. Some dogs (I had one) like to mask their scent by rolling and rubbing on a dead thing. I took my dog to the lake and he found a dead fish someone had thrown in the bushes at least a few days before. He came back slimy and stinking from head to toe. I had to try to wash him as best I could right there in the lake because I was not letting him into my truck like that. I loved that Dog but he could test you.

 
 
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