Study reveals 18 new zoonotic viruses in China’s wet markets, warns of ‘high risk to humans’

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A group of scientists have discovered 18 new zoonotic viruses in China’s wet markets. These viruses can pose a significant risk to humans and pets. The surprising discovery was made by a team of researchers from China, the United States, Belgium and Australia. The study is currently in pre-printing on the biorxiv server and has not been peer reviewed.

Zoonotic viruses infect animals but have the ability to “jump” and infect humans, creating new epidemic and pandemic diseases.

Connection to the wet market

Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City was quickly claimed to be the zero point of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the first batch of cases were reported in the sprawling 50,000 square meter market. . While scientific studies have been divided and inconclusive as to whether the wet market was the source of the SARS CoV-2 virus, where it passed from an animal of unknown species to humans, the The market was certainly one of the first super-propagator events.

Despite theories of a lab leak, a bioweapon, an elite-fueled global hoax and other conspiracy theories, the origin of the Wuhan market zoonosis remains inconclusive.

A wet market (also called a public market or traditional market) is a market where meat, fish and fresh produce are sold. The Huanan Seafood Market, in particular, was a market where live animals were also kept and slaughtered fresh for customers.

Wet markets are common in China, India, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. Wet markets become particularly dangerous when they engage in the trade of wild or exotic animals, believed to be the cause of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, H5N1 avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and smallpox. monkey.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers analyzed 16 species, divided into five different orders of mammals that were found in the wet markets. Many species have been banned by the Chinese government for the purpose of trade or artificial propagation, a move prompted by the risk of further zoonotic spread through alien species. In total, 1,725 ​​samples were analyzed by the researchers.

“From this, we identified 71 mammalian viruses, 45 of which were described for the first time. Eighteen viruses were considered potentially high risk to humans and pets, ”said corresponding author Shuo Su from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Nanjing Agricultural University in China. .

Despite this, researchers could not find a close relationship between the coronavirus and SARS CoV, the virus that causes SARS, or SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses from the Orthocoronavirinae subfamily, the Coronaviridae family, named for their crown-shaped spike protein.

Of the species examined, civets (Paguma larvata) have the greatest number of potential zoonotic viruses. This included a bat-transmitted HKU8 coronavirus in civets and the H9N2 avian influenza virus. Other cases of interspecific infections included jumps of coronavirus from bats to hedgehogs and from birds to porcupines.

“These data underscore the importance of game as a potential driver of disease emergence,” the researchers said.

(Edited by : Shoma bhattacharjee)

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