[Source: PLOS Pathogens, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]
OPEN ACCESS | PEER-REVIEWED | RESEARCH ARTICLE
Are pangolins the intermediate host of the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)?
Ping Liu , Jing-Zhe Jiang , Xiu-Feng Wan, Yan Hua, Linmiao Li, Jiabin Zhou, Xiaohu Wang, Fanghui Hou, Jing Chen, Jiejian Zou, Jinping Chen
Published: May 14, 2020 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008421
The outbreak of a novel corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the city of Wuhan, China has resulted in more than 1.7 million laboratory confirmed cases all over the world. Recent studies showed that SARS-CoV-2 was likely originated from bats, but its intermediate hosts are still largely unknown. In this study, we assembled the complete genome of a coronavirus identified in 3 sick Malayan pangolins. The molecular and phylogenetic analyses showed that this pangolin coronavirus (pangolin-CoV-2020) is genetically related to the SARS-CoV-2 as well as a group of bat coronaviruses but do not support the SARS-CoV-2 emerged directly from the pangolin-CoV-2020. Our study suggests that pangolins are natural hosts of Betacoronaviruses. Large surveillance of coronaviruses in pangolins could improve our understanding of the spectrum of coronaviruses in pangolins. In addition to conservation of wildlife, minimizing the exposures of humans to wildlife will be important to reduce the spillover risks of coronaviruses from wild animals to humans.
Recently, a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, caused a still ongoing pandemic. Epidemiological study suggested this virus was associated with a wet market in Wuhan, China. However, the exact source of this virus is still unknown. In this study, we attempted to assemble the complete genome of a coronavirus identified from two groups of sick Malayan pangolins, which were likely to be smuggled for black market trade. The molecular and evolutionary analyses showed that this pangolin coronavirus we assembled was genetically associated with the SARS-CoV-2 but was not likely its precursor. This study suggested that pangolins are natural hosts of coronaviruses. Determining the spectrum of coronaviruses in pangolins can help understand the natural history of coronaviruses in wildlife and at the animal-human interface, and facilitate the prevention and control of coronavirus-associated emerging diseases.
Citation: Liu P, Jiang J-Z, Wan X-F, Hua Y, Li L, Zhou J, et al. (2020) Are pangolins the intermediate host of the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)? PLoS Pathog 16(5): e1008421. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008421
Editor: Stanley Perlman, University of Iowa, UNITED STATES
Received: February 14, 2020; Accepted: April 8, 2020; Published: May 14, 2020
Copyright: © 2020 Liu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All our files are available from the GeneBank database (accession number 2312773).
Funding: This project was supported by wildlife disease monitoring and early warning system maintenance project from National Forestry and Grassland Administration (2019072) to Chen JP, GDAS Special Project of Science and Technology Development (grant number 2020GDASYL-20200103090, 2018GDASCX-0107) to Liu P.,Guangzhou Science Technology and Innovation Commission (grant number 201804020080) to Chen JP, Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 31972847) to Jiang JZ, Guangzhou science and technology project (grant number 2019001) to Chen JP. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: No authors have competing interests.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; Betacoronavirus; Pangolins; Wildlife.