Pangolins may be the link that caused the new coronavirus to spread from animals to humans, scientists on the mainland say.
The pangolin is a small scaly mammal found in Africa and Asia. It is often traded illegally, as its scales are used to make Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The new virus is believed to have originated in bats. However, experts think there may have been an “intermediate host” that allowed the virus to be transmitted to humans.
The pangolin may have acted as that host, researchers at the South China Agricultural University said in a statement on Friday.
According to state news agency Xinhua, the researchers carried out tests on more than 1,000 virus samples from wild pangolins. They found that the genome sequences of these viruses were 99 per cent identical to those found in coronavirus patients.
Because of its high demand in China and Vietnam, the pangolin has become the most trafficked animal in the world. More than a million have been taken from the wild in the past decade, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In January, Beijing ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals until the epidemic is under control. It has been accused by conservationists of turning a blind eye to the trade in endangered animals.
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