Normally when we hear about pangolins it’s because these cute little animals are being driven to extinction thanks to their skin scales being used in some forms of traditional medicine.
Now we have learnt that a coronavirus found in pangolins has a frighteningly close genetic similarity to the COVID-19 virus. Live pangolins are definitely sold in the Wuhan animal market in China.
In our view, the mere fact that such a question can gain screen time shows we are still coming second to this virus. It’s been a year since we heard reports it was killing humans in Wuhan, yet many of us (including ourselves) remain ignorant of its origins.
How did COVID-19 originate?
We could also ask whether an infected super-spreader human was in the Wuhan market infecting the pangolins? We just don’t know.
One thing we do know is there are about 2,500 coronaviruses known to science!
Other forms of coronavirus
It is also known that for 200 years none of these forms of coronavirus jumped from other species into humans to cause epidemics. Then, in 2002 a coronavirus passed from bats via civet cats to humans and led to the SARS epidemic which came and went.
In 2012, another coronavirus came about when this was transferred via camels to humans to cause the MERS epidemic which is still killing people today. 2019 brought with it yet another coronavirus and we still find ourselves in the midst of this ongoing pandemic!
Why did we see no coronavirus jump to humans in the previous 200 years and then we have three do this in the space of 20 years? If the pangolins know the answer, they’re guarding their secret very closely.