Emerging viral infections — from bird flu to Ebola to Zika infections — pose major threats to global public health, and understanding their origins can help investigators design defensive strategies against future outbreaks. A new study provides important insights on the potential origins of the most recent outbreak of viral pneumonia in China, which started in the middle of December and now is spreading to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan. The findings are published early online in the Journal of Medical Virology.
The study notes that patients who became infected with the virus — which is a type of virus called a coronavirus and was named 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization — were exposed to wildlife animals at a wholesale market, where seafood, poultry, snake, bats, and farm animals were sold.
By conducting a detailed genetic analysis of the virus and comparing it with available genetic information on different viruses from various geographic locations and host species, the investigators concluded that the 2019-nCoV appears to be a virus that formed from a combination of a coronavirus found in bats and another coronavirus of unknown origin. The resulting…
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