Researchers say the deadly coronavirus spreading around the world from China could have been passed to humans from snakes sold at an open-air market in Wuhan.
The SARS-like virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, last month and has killed at least 17 people and infected nearly 600. The virus has now made its way into Washington in the United States.
According to early reports, many of the first coronavirus patients were workers and customers at a seafood market selling processed meat alongside live consumable animals including koalas, camels and reptiles.
According to Daily Mail, researchers analysed strains of the new coronavirus and compared them to those from others found in different animal hosts like birds, snakes, bats and humans. They found that snakes were susceptible to the most similar version of the coronavirus and likely provided a reservoir for the viral strain to grow stronger and replicate.
Snakes often hunt bats – the original hosts in the 2003 SARS outbreak – and it is thought the 2019-nCoV strain could have jumped from them to the reptiles before being passed to humans, Metro UK reports.
They added that further tests are needed to verify the origin of the latest epidemic. However, the market has since been disinfected and shut down, making the task even more challenging, CNN reported.