homescience NewsStudy finds 18 new zoonotic viruses in China’s wet markets, warns of 'high risk to humans'

Study finds 18 new zoonotic viruses in China’s wet markets, warns of 'high risk to humans'

Study finds 18 new zoonotic viruses in China’s wet markets, warns of 'high risk to humans'
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By Nov 17, 2021 7:34:43 PM IST (Published)

Zoonotic viruses infect animals and have the ability to 'jump' and infect humans as well, creating new epidemic and pandemic diseases in the process.

A group of scientists has found 18 new zoonotic viruses in the wet markets across China, These viruses may pose considerable risk to humans and domesticated animals. The startling discovery was made by a team of researchers from China, the US, Belgium and Australia. The study is currently in preprint server biorxiv and has not been peer reviewed.

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Zoonotic viruses infect animals but have the capability to ‘jump’ and infect humans, creating new epidemic and pandemic diseases in the process.
The wet market connection 
The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City was quickly claimed to be the ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the first set of cases were reported from the sprawling 50,000-square metre market. While scientific studies have turned out to be divided and inconclusive on whether the wet market was the origin of the SARS CoV-2 virus, where it jumped from an animal of indeterminate species to humans, the market was certainly one of the first superspreader events.
Despite theories of a lab leak, a bioweapon, a global hoax fuelled by the elite, and other conspiracy theories, the Wuhan Market zoonosis origin remains inconclusive.
A wet market (also called a public market or a traditional market) is one where fresh meat, fish and produce are sold. The Huanan Seafood market, in particular, was one where live animals were also kept and slaughtered fresh for customers.
Wet markets are common across China, India, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. Wet markets become particularly dangerous when they engage in the trade of wild or exotic animals, thought to be the cause of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, H5N1 avian flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and monkeypox.
What did the researchers find?
The researchers analysed 16 species, spread across five different mammalian orders that were found in the wet markets. Many of the species were banned by the Chinese government for trading or artificial breeding, a move brought upon by the risk of further zoonotic spread through exotic species. A total of 1,725 samples were analysed by the researchers.
"From this we identified 71 mammalian viruses, with 45 described for the first time. Eighteen viruses were considered as potentially high-risk to humans and domestic animals," said corresponding author Shuo Su from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Nanjing Agricultural University in China.
Despite this, the researchers were unable to find any close coronavirus relations to SARS CoV, the virus responsible for causing SARS, or SARS CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses from the subfamily Orthocoronavirinae, in the family Coronaviridae, named for their crown-shaped spike protein.
Out of the species examined, civets (Paguma larvata) were found to have the most number of potential zoonotic viruses. This included a bat-borne coronavirus HKU8 in the civets and the avian influenza virus H9N2. Other cases of cross-species infections included jumps of coronavirus from bats to hedgehogs and from birds to porcupines.
"These data highlight the importance of game animals as potential drivers of disease emergence," the researchers said.
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