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Scientists now believe that the deadly virus spreading around the globe from China was passed to humans from snakes sold at the open-air market in Wuhan.
Researchers at Peking University believe that 2019-nCoV, the SARS-like coronavirus that's infected more than 500 people worldwide and killed 17, is made up of a combination of one that affects bats and another, totally unknown coronavirus.
Material - Protein - Bind - Host - Cells
They think genetic material from the two recombined, picked up a protein that lets viruses bind to certain host cells - including those of humans.
When they analyzed the genes of strains affecting various host animals, the team found that snakes were susceptible to the most similar version of the coronavirus, and likely provided a 'reservoir' for the viral strain to grow stronger and replicate.
Menagerie - Live - Koalas - Rats - Wolf
Sold alongside a menagerie the included live live koalas, rats and wolf pups at the Huanan Seafood Market in central Wuhan - now thought to be the outbreak's epicenter - snakes likely then served as the jumping-off point for the virus to begin infecting humans.
'Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,' the authors wrote in the Journal of Medical Virology.
Information - Analysis - Control - Outbreak - Pneumonia
'New information obtained from our evolutionary analysis is highly significant for effective control of the outbreak caused by the 2019-nCoV-induced pneumonia.'
Most types of virus have many different strains, but no all of them occur in all places, and not every strain can infect every species.
Study - Peking - University - Team - Genomes
For their new study, the Peking University team sequenced the genomes of 272 strains of coronavirus.
The new strain that's emerged from China is only the seventh version of a coronavirus known to infect humans.
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