You are here: Home » Health » News
Business Standard

Scientists questioning panglolin-coronavirus link, says new study

Pangolins are one of Asia's most trafficked mammals despite laws banning their trade

Reuters 

Indian nationals, airlifted from China's Wuhan, are seen inside a quarantine facility set by up ITBP IN New Delhi. Photo: PTI
Indian nationals, airlifted from China's Wuhan, are seen inside a quarantine facility set by up ITBP IN New Delhi. Photo: PTI

Independent scientists questioned research on Friday that suggested that the outbreak of disease spreading from China might have passed from bats to humans through the illegal traffic of pangolins.

South China Agricultural University, which said it had led the research, said on its website that the “discovery will be of great significance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the new virus)”.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the genome sequence of the novel strain separated from pangolins in the study was 99 per cent identical to that from infected people. It said the research had found pangolins — the world’s only scaly mammals — to be “the most likely intermediate host.”

But James Wood, head of the veterinary medicine department at Britain’s University of Cambridge, said the research was far from robust.

“The evidence for the potential involvement of pangolins in the outbreak has not been published, other than by a university press release. This is not scientific evidence,” he said.

“Simply reporting detection of viral RNA with sequence similarity of more than 99 per cent is not sufficient. Could these results have been caused by contamination from a highly infected environment?”

Pangolins are one of Asia’s most trafficked mammals, despite laws banning the trade, because their meat is considered a delicacy in countries such as China and their scales are used in traditional medicine. The outbreak of disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed 636 people in mainland China, is believed to have started in a market in the city of Wuhan that also sold live wild animals.

First Published: Sat, February 08 2020. 22:57 IST