The new coronavirus that led to the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, might have originated from the recombination of a pangolin virus with a bat virus, a study published on the journal Nature showed Thursday.
The study was conducted by Chinese researchers from South China Agricultural University and Guangdong Laboratory for Lingnan Modern Agriculture through comparative genomic analysis.
Below are the major findings of the study:
The new coronavirus shares high sequence identity to SARS-CoV and a bat coronavirus RaTG13.
One coronavirus isolated from a Malayan pangolin showed 100 percent, 98.6 percent, 97.8 percent and 90.7 percent amino acid identity with SARS-CoV-2 in the E, M, N and S genes, respectively.
In particular, the receptor-binding domain within the S protein of the Pangolin-CoV is virtually identical to that of SARS-CoV-2, with one noncritical amino acid difference.
The Pangolin-CoV was detected in 17 of 25 Malayan pangolins analyzed. Infected pangolins showed clinical signs and histological changes, and circulating antibodies against Pangolin-CoV reacted with the S protein of SARS-CoV-2.
The isolation of a coronavirus that is highly related to SARS-CoV-2 in pangolins suggests that they have the potential to act as the intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2.