Snakes as a Carrier? Why it is too early to make this statement

Snakes as a Carrier? Why it is too early to make this statement

Rats, crocodiles, foxes, snakes, peacocks and camel meat: the offers of The Huanan market in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan read like a long list of curiosities. Of this market from the Coronavirus in the meantime, hundreds of ill and 26 people have died, has spread apparently. The first Infected in December 2019 were initially the seller, who had worked there. Since 1. January the market is closed. The Location has been cleaned and disinfected.

Already early after the discovery of the first cases of suspected scientists, it could be a zoonotic Virus – a pathogen that is passed from animals to humans. The question is: what kind Of animal remains? The Coronavirus with the abbreviation 2019-nCoV is genetically closely related to the Sars pathogen, the in the years 2002 and 2003, approximately 800 people died. The Virus was at the time of civets. This is raccoon like mammals that live mostly on the ground.

Chinese scientists were able to isolate 2019-nCoV relatively quickly, sequenced and published the genome of the pathogen in a public database. Researchers around the world were able to develop Tests on the pathogen – an important measure, should spread of the pathogen in other countries.

Other researchers used the genome to determine the origin of the Virus, including a Team of Chinese scientists to the micro-biologists Wei Ji. The result, they released middle of this week in the journal “Journal of Medical Virology”. An analysis of the genome of 2019-nCoV have shown, therefore, that snakes are the “most likely” carriers of the Virus in free to be wild, the researchers write. Media worldwide reported on the study. Quickly, the speech was of a kind of “snakes-flu”.

Fierce criticism of the study

Other experts, such as Edward Holmes, a zoologist at the University of Sydney, reflected against the theory. Compared to the magazine “Wired” was Holmes’s clear words. The snake theory is, in his opinion “nonsense”. Whilst it was good that the viral sequences had been publicly made available. “The disadvantage is that people use this data to draw conclusions you should not draw actually.”

The Chinese scientists had compared the genome sequences of the Virus with those of potential hosts. It is known that there are viruses on their hosts can customize certain properties can be compared with each other. A Problem of evaluation exists, according to Holmes, however, is that the Chinese scientists had only compared a handful of potential hosts to each other. People were among them, but also bats, chickens, hedgehogs, Pangolins and snakes. Holmes is not meaningful enough: “It could easily be other types that come even more into question than snakes, but we don’t know it, because these were not included in the analyses.” Add to this that the biology of snakes vagina strongly of mammals, so Holmes.

The snake theory is off the table? Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yala School of Public Health, appeased. “I’m not saying that it would be possible. It could be so. In nature, strange things happen.” However, the evidence is low.

Bats as a natural host?

In the magazine “Science China Life Sciences” appeared, however, already on Tuesday, a study of the Reservoir leads to bats as a possible pathogen. There is a close relationship between the Wuhan-pathogens and a Virus that occurs naturally in bats, ie it is. “It would be the logical and most obvious conclusion that bats are the natural host of the Wuhan-are CoV, even if it is likely that there were one or more intermediate hosts in the transmission cascade from bats to people,” write the scientists working at research institutes in China. What animals could be in the Individual, in addition, the researchers found no speculation. David Robertson, a virologist at the University of Glasgow, described the unknown intermediate host in “Nature” as the “missing puzzle piece”.

Fixed: There is only one possibility of the origin of the pathogen, identify – and that would be the direct detection of the pathogen in the animal. For this, blood samples from all animals were necessary, which were sold on the Huanan market. Appropriate tests were being run, it is part of the WHO – a Puzzle with a (still) open-hearth output.

Sources: Nature / Journal of Medical Virology / Wired

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