Pangolins, Not Snakes, May Be Missing Link in Coronavirus Jump From Bats to Humans


Pangolin Front


As scientists scramble to be told extra concerning the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, two contemporary research of the virus’ genome reached arguable conclusions: specifically, that snakes are intermediate hosts of the brand new virus, and {that a} key coronavirus protein stocks “uncanny similarities” with an HIV-1 protein. Now, a find out about in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research refutes each concepts and means that scaly, anteater-like animals known as pangolins are the lacking hyperlink for SARS-CoV-2 transmission between bats and people.



Understanding the place SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that led to the COVID-19 pandemic — got here from and the way it spreads is essential for its keep watch over and remedy. Most mavens agree that bats are a herbal reservoir of SARS-CoV-2, however an intermediate host used to be wanted for it to leap from bats to people. A up to date find out about that analyzed the brand new virus’ genome advised snakes as this host, even if coronaviruses are handiest recognized to infect mammals and birds. Meanwhile, an unrelated find out about when compared the collection of the spike protein — a key protein chargeable for getting the virus into mammalian cells — of the brand new coronavirus to that of HIV-1, noting surprising similarities. Although the authors withdrew this preprint manuscript after clinical grievance, it spawned rumors and conspiracy theories that the brand new coronavirus may have been engineered in a lab. Yang Zhang and co-workers sought after to habits a extra cautious and entire research of SARS-CoV-2 DNA and protein sequences to get to the bottom of those problems.

Pangolin Close Up

Compared to the former research, the researchers used better knowledge units and more moderen, extra correct bioinformatics strategies and databases to analyze the SARS-CoV-2 genome. They discovered that, in distinction to the declare that 4 areas of the spike protein have been uniquely shared between SARS-CoV-2 and HIV-1, the 4 collection segments may well be discovered in different viruses, together with bat coronavirus. After uncovering an error in the research that advised snakes as an intermediate host, the group searched DNA and protein sequences remoted from pangolin tissues for ones equivalent to SARS-CoV-2. The researchers recognized protein sequences in in poor health animals’ lungs that have been 91% an identical to the human virus’ proteins. Moreover, the receptor binding area of the spike protein from the pangolin coronavirus had handiest 5 amino acid variations from SARS-CoV-2, when compared with 19 variations between the human and bat viral proteins. This proof issues to the pangolin because the perhaps intermediate host for the brand new coronavirus, however further intermediate hosts may well be conceivable, the researchers say.

Reference: “Protein Structure and Sequence Reanalysis of 2019-nCoV Genome Refutes Snakes as Its Intermediate Host and the Unique Similarity between Its Spike Protein Insertions and HIV-1” via Chengxin Zhang, Wei Zheng, Xiaoqiang Huang, Eric W. Bell, Xiaogen Zhou and Yang Zhang, 22 March 2020, Journal of Proteome Research.DOI: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.0c00129

The authors recognize investment from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment.

For extra in this subject, learn Unlocking the Genetic Code of the Novel Coronavirus: How COVID-19 Made the Leap From Animals to Humans.


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