Where does the coronavirus come from? How did it pass on to humans and how could it spread so quickly around the globe? Scientists have been working on these questions for a year now.
Which animals carry coronaviruses?
Initially, the pangolin, whose meat is considered a delicacy in China, was held responsible, but it is now assumed that the virus was transmitted to humans by bats. Now, the WHO announces that a total of 13 corona variants were discovered in Wuhan in December, making the spread of the virus much greater than expected.
British scientists have also taken it upon themselves to identify potential hosts that can transmit Sars-CoV-2 to humans. For this purpose, they examined 876 mammals for 411 strains of the coronavirus. The results show that besides bats, hedgehogs, rabbits and even domestic cats can be vectors. In their publication in Nature Communications, the researchers write:
Our results show that the potential scale of emergence of novel coronaviruses in wild and domesticated animals is greatly underestimated.
More mammal species affected than expected
The results also show that, in addition to hedgehogs and rabbits, the small Asian yellow bat, which is widespread in East Asia, is one of the largest carriers of Sars-CoV-2. The Asian palm civet and the greater horseshoe bat also harbour several variants of the coronavirus.
Overall, the researchers have found that there are 40 times more mammalian species carrying four or more strains of coronavirus and that the range has increased as a result. There could also be animals carrying coronaviruses in countries like Japan and Vietnam.