Laboratory leak or interspecific mutation: what caused the 2019 nCov outbreak in China?


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Since the beginning of the year, the whole world has been following the development of the situation in China in connection with the outbreak of the new corona virus 2019-nCov. Every day there are new data on the number of infected people from the Middle Kingdom, which is increasing steadily. Scientists have found that the coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person at the incubation stage – that is, until the first symptoms appear, which makes an already difficult situation considerably more difficult. In the meantime, researchers are trying to understand the origin of 2019-nCov. There are currently two hypotheses: a gradual mutation of the virus in wildlife at the Wuhan market and a leak from the deadly virus laboratory located near the epicenter of the outbreak.

The number of people infected with deadly corona virus in China is growing every day. Quarantine specified in the country

Where do new viruses come from in the 21st century?

The emergence of new viruses shouldn't surprise anyone today – after all, viruses develop like all organisms on our planet and adapt to new conditions. Due to the growing earth population and the amount of meat consumed, various viruses were given a license: A large accumulation of mammals and poultry in agricultural holdings, where hygiene standards are not always maintained, becomes an ideal environment for the multiplication of viruses. At least that was the case with bird and swine flu. Avian influenza is an extremely common bird fever in the wild. However, if this strain passes into domestic hens, it dies quickly due to lack of immunity. Due to the frequent contact of sick birds with humans, the virus can gradually mutate. This was the reason for the appearance of a bird flu strain that was fatal to humans.

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A similar situation was observed when severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) broke out in 2003: the bats that live in a cave in the Chinese province of Yunnan were found to be the carriers of the virus. Bats generally don't get sick. We recently told you about the threat posed by the Nipah virus pandemic, the vectors of which are the fruit bats of the genus Pteropodidae. Rising temperatures due to climate change also threaten the spread of other equally dangerous diseases.

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Under such conditions, animals were kept at the Wuhan fish market

Scientists have found that the 2019 nCov genome is almost 80% identical to the SARS genome. However, mortality from SARS was significantly higher than from the new corona virus. But if it turned out that bats are the cause of SARS, where did 2019-nCov come from on the Wuhan fish market? According to CNN, the scientists have narrowed the causes of the spread of the coronavirus to the interspecific transmission of the pathogen of bats or snakes and a possible laboratory leak in Wuhan.

Reason 1: Handover of the 2019 NCoV to bat snakes

Given the reasons for the appearance of SARS and MERS, it is not surprising that bats were first suspected by scientists. As a result, it became known that wild animals were traded on the Wuhan fish market, which Middle Kingdom citizens often use for culinary purposes. Therefore, the researchers proposed that the coronavirus be transmitted from bats to snakes and ultimately to humans. Social networks of Chinese gastronomic hobbies, including bat soup, have recently been sharply criticized. In 2017, Wang Mengyun, a Chinese celebrity, apologized after the video in which she ate a fried bat went viral. The question of whether the corona virus or other forms of the virus can be transmitted to humans after the heat treatment remains open.

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On the left in the photo is a bat soup. Right, Chinese actress Wang Mengyun eats a fried bat.

According to researchers in an article published in the Journal of Medical Virology, snakes are the most likely reservoir for 2019-nCoV. Despite criticism of this work in the scientific community, experts believe that the presence of a large number of wild animals in cages on the market in Wuhan provides ideal conditions for the multiplication and interspecific mutation of viruses. Previous studies have shown that the virus can spread from living bats to poorly regulated markets where live animals are traded.

Reason # 2: Possible leak from Deadly Virus Lab

In 2017, the National Biosafety Laboratory was opened in Wuhan to investigate the world's strongest viruses and pathogens. Even then, the researchers expressed concern about a possible leak from the laboratory. Due to the fact that scientists in Chinese laboratories test animal pathogens, including monkeys, it is possible that pathogens break out in different ways. According to some experts, monkeys can show fleeting behavior due to pathogens.

The province of Hubei is shown. Red shows the distance from the fish market to the virus research laboratory

And what do you think caused the outbreak of a new corona virus in China? Do you share your opinion in the comments and with the participants in our telegram chat?

You can run away, scratch, bite. Due to the development of the virus and the research that has been carried out in recent weeks, interspecific transmission of bats or snakes to humans is a more likely cause of the coronavirus than a possible leak of the object. However, it is impossible to completely exclude the version of a leak from the laboratory. In 2004, a SARS leak occurred in one of the laboratories in China.

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