Bats Could Indeed Be The Source Of The Wuhan Coronavirus - Scientists Say

Are bats the source of the deadly new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has already claimed over 360 lives in China and one in the Philippines? 

Only a few days ago, a video featuring a young Chinese woman biting into a bat went viral and so did the claim that the Wuhan outbreak is sourced from bats. Back then, sufficient data to prove such a claim was absent, and it was largely waived off as a myth. However, although the video was from 2017, and not at all relevant to the present outbreak, there might be some truth that the new coronavirus has come from bats.

In a study published in Nature on February 3, 2020, by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the researchers found that the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is 96% identical at the whole-genome level to a coronavirus obtained from bats. 

In the past, scientists had discovered many coronaviruses related to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in bats who act as the natural reservoir hosts of these viruses. Studies have also revealed that some of these bat SARSr-CoVs have the potential to infect humans. 

In the present study, the scientists obtained full-length genome sequences from five patients at the early stage of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak that started on December 12, 2019. 

Surprisingly, the study exhibited a 79.5% genome sequence identity between the 2019-nCoV and SARS-CoV. Moreover, the 2019-nCoV was 96% identical in terms of whole-genome sequence to a bat coronavirus. Further investigations showed that the new coronavirus belongs to the species of SARSr-CoV.

Another interesting finding was that the new coronavirus used the same cell entry receptor ACE2 as the SARS-CoV.

The results so obtained indicate that there is a possibility that the new coronavirus originated from bats. 

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