A new report suggests that the endangered delicacy pangolin may have sparked the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Pangolins are a delicacy in the culture of China.
The outbreak of the deadly virus, which has killed over 700 people, originated in the Wuhan wet market, where wild-animal meat was being sold ahead of the outbreak.
Researchers believe the vendors were selling pangolins, mammals with scales and a long snout and tail.
New research shows that the strain of coronavirus found in local pangolins is 99 percent identical to the latest that is spreading amongst humans.
The latest study was conducted by researchers at the South China Agricultural University.
Liu Yahong, the president of the South China Agricultural University, said the results of the tests they conducted suggested that pangolins are a potential intermediate host of the novel coronavirus.
Recent studies suggested that bats are the ones that sparked the outbreak.
Seized endangered pangolin scales are displayed during a press conference that was held at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound in Hong Kong.
The Chinese research suggests that bats passed the virus to pangolins, which acted as the intermediary in spreading the virus to humans.
James Wood, the head of veterinary medicine at the Britain’s University of Cambridge, said the research was not reviewed by any other researchers.
In a statement that he released, Wood said, “
“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.”
The number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak in China has officially risen to 722 on Saturday. The total number of infections across China has now reached 34,546.
The total death toll has surpassed the death toll from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, which happened in the mainland and Hong Kong almost two decades ago.