An endangered animal that looks like a scaly anteater — and is a delicacy in the Chinese culture — is suspected of infecting humans with the coronavirus, a report said Friday.
The outbreak of the deadly virus is believed to be tied to a market in Wuhan, China, where wild-animal meat is sold, including potentially pangolins, mammals with scales and a long snout and tail.
New research shows that the strain of coronavirus found in local pangolins is 99% identical to the latest spreading among humans, according to the South China Agricultural University, which conducted the study, said the official Chinese news service Xinhua on Friday.
“Results showed that pangolins are a potential intermediate host of the novel coronavirus,” the state-run media said, citing the university’s president, Liu Yahong.
Other researchers previously said in two studies in the acclaimed journal Nature that bats likely sparked the outbreak.
The Chinese research suggests that bats passed the virus to pangolins, which acted as the intermediary in spreading the virus to humans.
James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Britain’s University of Cambridge, said the South China Agricultural research had not reviewed.
“The evidence for the potential involvement of pangolins in the outbreak has not been published other than by a university press release,” he told Reuters. “This is not scientific evidence.”