Linked to coronaviruses, may expose pangolins to another threat

Pangolins are considered “the most trafficked mammals in the world” and now all eight species in the pangolins are under serious threat, with Chinese pangolins and Malay pangolins listed as “extremely dangerous” species in the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, pangolins may be facing another threat due to potential links to coronaviruses. Some scientists worry that pangolins could spark public fears and undermine pangolin protection efforts after they were listed as a possible source of an outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Linked to coronaviruses, may expose pangolins to another threat

Bill Zeigler, a senior researcher at the Chicago Zoological Society at Brooksfield Zoo in the United States, also expressed concern that the public could have a negative view of the endangered scaly mammal if it did not accept the conclusion without sufficient evidence. “My concern is that if we don’t say it correctly, people will be afraid of pangolins, ” he said. If they find a pangolin in the wild, there’s no problem with the spread of the disease, but they may kill it because they’re afraid. “。

In some places, the consumption of pangolins has been banned, and pangolin scales have long been regarded as a precious medicinal material. Tens of thousands of pangolins are illegally hunted each year, leading to a sharp decline in the number of pangolins around the world. However, the efficacy of pangolin scales has not yet been proven, its main component is close to human nails, and like rhino horn belongs to traditional superstitions.

Brookfield Zoo in Illinois is one of the seven most successful institutions in the United States to cultivate pangolins. Over the past four years, the zoo has successfully helped nine pangolin cubs to be born.

Several scientists, including Bill Ziegler, have questioned the discovery that pangolins are the intermediate hosts of the new coronavirus. “What they found was a coronavirus that was very similar to the one found in Wuhan, so it was possible,” Ziegler said. “

Is pangolin the intermediate host of the new coronavirus?

A study by South China Agricultural University found that pangolins may be the intermediate host of the new coronavirus. The researchers believe the outbreak originated in Wuhan’s wildlife market. After analyzing more than 1,000 samples, they found that the genome sequences of viruses extracted from pangolins were 99 percent similar to those of infected people. Liu Yahong, president of South China Agricultural University, said this meant pangolins were the most likely intermediate host of the coronavirus.

Liu Yahong also said the discovery of pangolins as a potential intermediate host of the new coronavirus will help prevent and control the virus. Health experts believe the new coronavirus may have been first found in bats and then transmitted to humans through vectors such as pangolins.

The report did not say the findings were conclusive, and scientists in the field are eagerly awaiting the official publication of the findings to evaluate them. In addition, a January 31 article on the Virology website noted that the coronavirus from the bat may have recombined with the coronavirus from pangolin to form the new coronavirus.

However, some scientists believe that while the pangolin-related virus appears to be linked to a new coronavirus contracted in humans, it is not enough conclusive evidence of how the new virus originated. Pangolins may be infected with the same virus as humans, just another victim, not the source. More information is needed to determine whether the virus is spreading from pangolin to humans. We need to find people who are healthy and get infected after being exposed to certain animals, and the virus that infects them is also present in the animals they come into contact with in order to get conclusive evidence.

February 15 happens to be World Pangolin Day (the third Saturday of February each year), held on the same day the State Council joint defense and control mechanism at the launch of the Department of Social Development Science and Technology Wu Yuanbin said: “Previously, a scientific research team pointed out that pangolin may be a potential intermediate host of the new coronavirus, we are organizing a scientific research team to demonstrate, The path of transmission of the new coronavirus from pangolins to humans is also being studied. He also stressed that progress would be made public in a timely manner.

Protect pangolins

Pangolins are protected by international law, but they are still one of the most commonly smuggled mammals in the world. According to data released in 2018 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the number of Chinese pangolins has fallen by 90 per cent in the past 20 years. In 2016, CITES listed eight pangolins in Appendix I (Threatened by Extinction), banning international trade altogether. However, trafficking in pangolins appears to be continuing in parts of Asia and Africa.

Ian Lipkin, an infectious disease expert at Columbia University in the US, says similar viruses will continue to appear “every few years” as long as wildlife markets, which sell large numbers of animal species, remain open. “I want to close the wildlife market,” he said. “

But this step may not be enough. “While closing wildlife markets can have a significant impact, a ban alone cannot stop the illegal wildlife trade if demand persists,” the WWF said in a statement. This health crisis must serve as a wake-up call to stop the unsustainable use of endangered animals and their parts of their bodies, whether as food or pets, or for their medicinal value. “