Recent research revealed that Bats are likely the cause of coronavirus from China after scientists find the virus is 96 per cent identical to one found in the animals.
The virus, which has killed 362 people so far, was believed to have transferred to humans from an animal, but identifying which one has been challenging.
Now, using samples from seven patients with severe pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, scientists have found striking similarities to coronavirus found in bats.
The DNA is also 79.5 per cent identical with the deadly SARS coronavirus, which suggests vaccines for the now non-existent virus may help with this epidemic.
Global cases have risen above 17,450, higher than the total recorded cases of the SARS virus that killed some 800 people in 2002 and 2003.
Although scientists stress the animal source of the recent outbreak in China is yet to be officially declared, experts have confirmed a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city is to blame.
A menagerie of live animals including koalas, rats and wolf pups were available at the Huanan Seafood Market in central Wuhan – the outbreak’s epicentre.
While most research has pointed towards bats, research at Peking University implicated snakes as the most likely ‘reservoir’ of the rapidly spreading virus.
The Huanan market was a hotspot with locals, who could choose to buy their meat ‘warm’ meaning it had been slaughtered just moment prior.
Dr Michael Skinner, reader in virology at Imperial College London, said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
His team found that full-length genome sequences – which determined the DNA of the virus – from five of the patients, were almost 100 per cent identical to each other.
They compared it with TG13, a coronavirus in bats, and found the virus sequence is 96 per cent identical at the whole-genome level to a bat coronavirus.
This evidence suggests bats are a probable source of this coronavirus, according to the publication in the journal Nature.
This jump between species is rare and makes the virus zoonotic — capable of infecting different species.
Bats are unaffected by the pathogens in their bloodstreams but people have no protection to the viruses as they are foreign to human immune systems.
And once in humans, it can then be easily passed from person-to-person through coughs or sneezes.
According to Dailymail, some authors identified a novel virus and found that the viral genome shared 89.1 per cent similarity with SARS-like coronaviruses from bats.
Scientists have since raced to find a vaccine, which may take years, the epidemic’s official death toll soared overnight by 57 to 361 cases in China. One person has also died in the Philippines.
Chinese authorities reported 2,829 new cases over the last 24 hours, taking infections to above 17,450 worldwide.
Within a month, the never-seen-before coronavirus strain has spread at an alarming rate. It has reached 23 countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Developments forced The World Health Organisation to declare a public health emergency last week due to high concerns the virus will spread to countries with weaker health systems.
Some Nigerians who are currently in Wuhan, the Chinese city where coronavirus broke out two weeks ago, are appealing to the federal government to evacuate them.
As of Monday morning, the virus had killed 361 people in China. Many countries have been evacuating their citizens as a result of the health crisis.