Coronavirus: Bats are a possible source of infection

Coronavirus: Bats are a possible source of infection

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Genetic sequencing of nCov provides information about the origin

So far it has not been finally clarified where the new corona virus comes from. Since it first appeared on a fish market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, fish were initially suspected as a source of infection. Initial genome analyzes have now shown that the virus has only recently developed and that it probably originates from bats.

Genome sequencing of the Chinese coronavirus nCoV showed that the viruses are genetically different from SARS. According to the researchers, it is actually a new type of corona virus that emerged recently and can affect humans. The virus is closely related to SARS-like coronaviruses, which were first discovered in bats. Bats are currently the most likely focus of infection. The results were recently presented in the renowned journal "The Lancet".

Current situation

The new corona virus 2019-nCoV has so far led to around 9,700 confirmed diseases. There are also over 100,000 suspected cases. The virus has been linked to at least 213 deaths to date. Even if the virus spreads predominantly in China, individual cases have already been detected in 18 countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises caution: “It is expected that further international exports of cases can occur in every country. Therefore, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracking, and prevention of the further spread of the 2019 nCoV infection. ”

On the trail of the origin

A Chinese research team performed a genome analysis of the new corona virus. The viruses came from nine patients from Wuhan. The analysis suggests that bats may be the original host of the virus. Rumors are circulating on the net that a bat soup has spread the virus. There is no evidence of this. The researchers believe it is more likely that an animal sold on the Wuhan seafood market served as an intermediate host.

Did the virus develop in humans?

The researchers also suspect that this intermediate host only enabled the virus to develop in humans. The team emphasizes that further research is urgently needed to better understand the development, adaptability and distribution pathways of the new virus.

Eight of the patients examined had visited the Wuhan seafood market. However, a patient had never been to the fish market, but was housed in a hotel near the market at the beginning of his illness. The samples taken from the patients were 99.98 percent identical. According to the researchers, this is strong evidence that the virus is very young.

Constant monitoring of the mutations that occur

"It is striking that the sequences of 2019-nCoV from different patients described here were almost identical," explains lead author Professor Weifeng Shi. This suggests that 2019-nCoV came from a source within a very short period of time and was discovered relatively quickly. However, since the virus has been spread to more people, constant monitoring of the mutations that occur is necessary.

Virus is similar to bat corona viruses

Gene sequencing clearly showed that nCov has a genetic correspondence with two SARS-like corona viruses (Bat-SL-CoVZC45 and Bat-SL-CoVZXC21). 88 percent of the gene sequence matched the new corona virus. NCov shares 79 percent of the gene sequence with the human SARS virus. The virus is thus further removed from human SARS viruses than from bat corona viruses.

Distribution channels probably similar to SARS viruses

During the investigation, the researchers also found that the so-called spike protein of nCoV is similar to that of the SARS virus. The viruses can penetrate human cells via the spike proteins. The authors of the study conclude that the new coronavirus probably uses the same molecular access to the cells as SARS, via a receptor called ACE2. This has yet to be confirmed in further studies.

State of things

Based on the current state of research, the study authors consider the following to be probable:

  • 2019-nCoV originally comes from bats.
  • The bats transmitted the virus to an unknown wild animal.
  • This wild animal was offered at the Wuhan market.
  • The intermediate host transmitted the virus to a human.

Bat soup is most likely a fake

There is currently a lot of media news that claims a bat soup available in China has spread the virus. The researchers consider this to be unlikely. You strongly assume an intermediate host as a carrier, there

  1. the outbreak was reported in late December 2019, when most bat species hibernated in Wuhan,
  2. no bats were sold or found on the seafood market,
  3. many wild animals, including mammals, were offered on the market
  4. the similarity in genetic sequences between 2019-nCoV and its close relatives in bats was less than 90 percent, meaning that these two coronaviruses derived from bats are not direct ancestors of 2019-nCoV,
  5. SARS and MERS bats served as a natural reservoir, but other animals acted as intermediate hosts before passing on to humans.

Hidden virus reservoir in wild animals

The researchers emphasize that this case again confirms the hidden virus reservoir in wild animals and the associated potential to spread to humans. More information about the new virus can be found in the article: Detecting coronavirus: symptoms, risk of infection, transmission and protective measures. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Prof Roujian Lu, Xiang Zhao, Juan Li, u.a .: Genomic characterization and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding; in: The Lancet, 2020,
  • WHO: Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) (published: 30.01.2020),

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