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Identification of 2019-nCoV related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins in southern China

By Tommy Tsan-Yuk Lam, Marcus Ho-Hin Shum, Hua-Chen Zhu, Yi-Gang Tong, Xue-Bing Ni, Yun-Shi Liao, Wei Wei, William Yiu-Man Cheung, Wen-Juan Li, Lian-Feng Li, Gabriel M. Leung, Edward C Holmes, Yan-Ling Hu, Yi Guan

Posted 18 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.13.945485 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2169-0)

The ongoing outbreak of viral pneumonia in China and beyond is associated with a novel coronavirus, provisionally termed 2019-nCoV. This outbreak has been tentatively associated with a seafood market in Wuhan, China, where the sale of wild animals may be the source of zoonotic infection. Although bats are likely reservoir hosts for 2019-nCoV, the identity of any intermediate host facilitating transfer to humans is unknown. Here, we report the identification of 2019-nCoV related coronaviruses in pangolins (Manis javanica) seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China. Metagenomic sequencing identified pangolin associated CoVs that belong to two sub-lineages of 2019-nCoV related coronaviruses, including one very closely related to 2019-nCoV in the receptor-binding domain. The discovery of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to 2019-nCoV suggests that pangolins should be considered as possible intermediate hosts for this novel human virus and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission.

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