|Wildlife trade amplifies spread of coronaviruses, two studies find ||
|Six known coronaviruses found in wildlife in Vietnam|
|Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks|
|Wildlife trade amplifies spread of coronaviruses, two studies find|
Asias booming wildlife trade is fuelling the spread of coronaviruses by providing the ideal opportunity for animals to infect each other and potentially humans, two studies have found.
Across Asia, wild animals including rodents, pangolins and bats are transported, often illegally, thousands of miles in crowded and chaotic conditions for use in restaurants and traditional medicines.
Experts have long thought this amplifies the transmission of coronaviruses, making the possibility of a jump to humans more likely.
In one new study, published as a preprint without peer review, researchers analysed oral swabs from more than 2,000 field rats in three provinces in southern Vietnam. They found that the animals smuggled across the Mekong River Delta, from traders to restaurants, tested positive for six different coronaviruses. More significantly, the incidence of infection increased significantly along their journey.
Roughly 20 per cent of wild rats caught by traders tested positive for at least one coronavirus, rising to 32 per cent of rodents in large markets. In restaurants, the final step in the chain, 55 per cent of rats were infected.
The observed viral amplification along the wildlife trade supply chain for human consumption likely resulted from the mixing and close confinement of stressed live animals, the researchers wrote.
They added that the results demonstrate that human behaviour that is driving spillover events, where viruses jump from animals to people, and said added disease surveillance systems are needed.
To minimise the public health risks we recommend precautionary measures that restrict the killing, commercial breeding, transport, buying, selling, storage, processing and consuming of wild animals, researchers said.
Rodents are a popular item on the menu across southeast Asia and China, where they are viewed as a healthy and nutritious food source. Rats are regularly bought and sold in wet markets along the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, where the study took place.
Little concrete data is available on the scale and scope of the current market, but in the early 2000s between 3,300 and 3,600 tons of live rats were estimated to be processed in the Vietnamese field rodent trade. The study notes that the market was then valued at $2 million.
The data in the latest report was collected between 2013 and 2014, long before Covid-19 emerged, in a study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Researchers also took fecal samples from animals on 28 wildlife farms six per cent of both Malayan porcupines and of bamboo rats tested positive for coronaviruses, while 75 per cent of bats on bat farms were infected. The flying mammals are generally considered the natural reservoir of coronaviruses.
In a separate study, also published as a preprint on the website bioRxiv, researchers took samples from nearly 300 pangolins seized in Malaysia over a 10-year period. The critically endangered animal is one of the most trafficked mammals in the world their scales are used in traditional medicines, while pangolin meat is deemed an expensive delicacy.
But while scientists detected Sars-Cov-2 in pangolins in February, none of the animals in this study, led by the Eco Health Alliance, tested positive. The report suggests this contrast is a result of the point in the supply chain at which samples were taken.
Our samples were drawn from an upstream cohort of animals yet to enter or just entering the illegal trade network, whereas all others were drawn from downstream cohorts confiscated at their destination in China, the authors wrote.
We therefore conclude that the detections of Sars-CoV-2 related viruses in pangolins are more plausibly a result of their exposure to infected people, wildlife or other animals after they entered the trade network.
Experts say that the results of these studies strengthen theories that the new coronavirus was in circulation before it emerged at the Wuhan wet market in December 2019.
I think we underestimate the sheer size of that [wildlife supply chain] network and the dynamics within it its enough to drive outbreaks, said Dr Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance.
He added that the latest research on pangolins was one more small piece in [the] Covid emergence jigsaw.
|Six known coronaviruses found in wildlife in Vietnam|
The research has been published on bioRxiv by a team of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Department of Animal Health under the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam National University of Agriculture, EcoHealth Alliance and One Health Institute under the University of California, Davis.
Findings from the study showed that, at nodes along the supply chain, wildlife is often stressed and kept in cramped conditions with other animals imported from many sources, which increases the possibility of coronavirus transmission. The authors also warned of the risk of animal-to-human virus transmission during wildlife trade.
The researchers said that stress and poor nutrition likely contributes to shedding by reducing animal health conditions and altering immune functions. Together, these factors may result in increased shedding and amplification of coronaviruses along the supply chain for human consumption.
Research on rodents also indicates the risk of spreading coronaviruses to other wildlife (civets, pangolins) in places where large numbers of animals are collected, transported and kept.
The purpose of this study is to better understand the existence and diversity of coronaviruses in wildlife in three areas of human-wildlife contact, including at the links in live wildlife trade, wildlife farms, and areas with a high interaction between people and bats.
The research team collected samples from 70 locations across Vietnam and discovered six known coronaviruses. Although there is currently no evidence that these viruses are a threat to human health, this study enhances surveillance capacity in the direction of the One Health approach of Vietnam to detect important emerging or unknown viruses in humans, wildlife and livestock in the future.
The research shows a high positive rate for coronaviruses in rats destined for human consumption. The positive rate increased significantly along the supply chain from traders (21%), to markets (32%) and restaurants (56%). Two-thirds of wildlife farms and 6% of rodents raised on farms within the study sites also showed positive coronavirus results.
Specimens of rodent dung on wildlife farms also showed the presence of the same coronaviruses found in bats and birds, suggesting a shared habitat and/or viral spread among wildlife. Samples from rodents taken from natural habitats gave corona virus results in the range of 0-2%.
Amanda Fine, Director of WCS’s Asia Wildlife Program, one of the co-authors of the study, said: Wildlife supply chains, and the conditions the animals experience while in the supply chain, appear to greatly amplify the prevalence of coronaviruses. In addition, we have recorded exposure to coronaviruses from bats and birds among rodents raised on farms.
The prevalence and diversity of coronaviruses, in addition to the general captivity of many animals observed in wildlife trade, is creating opportunities for coronavirus strains to combine and spread, she added.
The authors have warned that the trade in wildlife facilitates close contact between people and multiple species of wildlife taxa shedding coronaviruses. This provides opportunities for intra- and inter-species transmission and potential recombination of coronaviruses.
The wildlife supply chain from the field to the restaurant provides multiple opportunities for such spillover events to occur. To minimise the public health risks of viral disease emergence from wildlife and to safeguard livestock-based production systems, the authors recommend precautionary measures that restrict the killing, commercial breeding, transport, buying, selling, storage, processing, and consumption of wild animals.
Hoang Bich Thuy, WCS Vietnam Country Program Director and co-author, said: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government of Vietnam has been taking strong actions to enforce wildlife trade laws and is considering the prohibition of wildlife trade and consumption as directed by the Prime Minister in his Official Letter No. 1744/VPCP-KGVX dated March 6, 2020, from the Government Office.
According to Thuy, this research provides important baseline information and suggests areas for targeted studies to provide more evidence for the development of new policies and/or revision of the legal framework in Vietnam to prevent future pandemics by mitigating the risks of transmitting pathogens from animals to humans at key nodes along the wildlife supply chain.
Successful interventions will be those that support a significant reduction in the volume and diversity of species traded, along with the number of people involved in the trade of wildlife, Thuy suggested.
|1:09 PM 6/22/2020 – Early epidemiological research is indicating that it may have come from wild animals such as bamboo rats and badgers, said Dr. Zhong Nanshan|
1:09 PM 6/22/2020
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|China culls 1.6 tonnes of bamboo rats bred for their meat | Dr Zhong Nanshan, epidemiologist: epidemic and bamboo rats or badgers | Michael Novakhov – Posts on Twitter|
China culls 1.6 tonnes of bamboo rats bred for their meat
|China culls 1.6 tonnes of bamboo rats bred for their meat|
Officials at a Chinese province have reportedly culled more than 1.6 tonnes of farm-bred bamboo rats in one go after the government banned the eating and trading of wild animals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chinese bamboo rats, which are linked to coronavirus, have been a sought-after food source in the country for centuries and hailed for their ‘nutritional value’.
Forestry workers at Hubei Province, the former epicentre of the outbreak, buried more than 900 bamboo rats alive on Friday after seizing them from a local farmer, according to a report.
China culls rats bred for their meat by burying them alive
Officials at the Xian’an District Forest Bureau of Xianning in Hubei buried more than 900 bamboo rats alive to crack down on the wild animal trade, according to a local report
The report said that specialist workers had dug a deep pit in the mountains far from sources of drinking water before placing the live creatures inside and scattering lime powder over them
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In February, China’s central government issued a temporary ban on all trade and consumption of wild animals – a practice believed responsible for the global crisis.
Chinese farmers were rearing about 25 million bamboo rats when the government launched a temporary ban on the trading and consumption of wild animals in February in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The picture shows a farmer in Guizhou holding two bamboo rats in 2012
A picture on Mr Zhushu, a forum for bamboo rat breeders, lists 30 ways to cook the rats’ meat. One of them (pictured), sliced boiled bamboo rat, is presented in the shape of a rodent
All of the bamboo rats, amounting 916 in total, were said to belong to the same breeder, who ran one of the biggest bamboo rat farms in the area.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the meat of bamboo rats can detoxify one’s body and improve the functions of one’s stomach and spleen. Others believe it can ‘beautify’ the diners. The picture from December, 2012, shows a bamboo rat on a farm in Guizhou Province
Although the exact source of the virus remains unclear, Dr Zhong Nanshan, China’s leading epidemiologist, claimed in January that the epidemic might be linked to the eating of bamboo rats or badgers. A farmer in China’s Guizhou Province is pictured holding a bamboo rat in 2012
Chinese bamboo rats, or ‘zhu shu’ in Mandarin, are known for their portly figure and fat cheeks.
Chinese bamboo rats, or ‘zhu shu’ in Mandarin, are known for their portly figure and fat cheeks
Although the exact source of the virus remains unclear, Dr Zhong Nanshan, China’s leading epidemiologist, claimed in January that the outbreak might be linked to the eating of bamboo rats or badgers.
|Wildlife trade spreads viruses as animals are herded, shipped off to market: Study- Technology News, Firstpost|
A study of the wildlife trade in three provinces in southern Vietnam produced startlingly clear confirmation for one of the underlying objections to the wildlife trade in Asia the trading offers an ideal opportunity for viruses in one animal to infect another.
In field rats, a highly popular animal to eat in Vietnam and neighboring countries, the percentage that tested positive for at least one of six different coronaviruses jumped significantly. It increased from 20% of wild-caught rats sold by traders, to slightly more than 30% at large markets, the next step in the supply chain, to 55% of rats sold in restaurants that tested positive.
In other words, the odds were about even that a field rat on the plate was infected with some kind of coronavirus.
The data for this study has taken a long time to process. The tests were done in 2013 and 2014, for common coronaviruses, long before the emergence of the treacherous novel virus that has caused the current pandemic. The results show unequivocally how viruses spread from animal to animal as they are transported in crowded conditions to market.
Sarah H Olson, an epidemiologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society who directed the research, said she expected some increase in infections, because many animals are shipped together in close proximity in the wildlife trade, putting them under high stress. Its classic disease ecology, she said.
But she didnt expect the degree of rising infections. The numbers floored her. We saw this huge step-by-step increase, she said. I kept going back to check the data.
She and a team of scientists posted a report of their research, which has not yet been peer reviewed, but has been submitted to a scientific journal, on a website for unpublished research, bioRxiv.
Myanmar’s illicit endangered wildlife market. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Edward C Holmes, an infectious disease expert at the University of Sydney, in Australia, who was not involved with the research, said the papers data clearly laid out the risk posed by the wildlife trade. It is striking that the number of infected animals increases as you up the supply chain toward consumption, he said.
|Chinese virologists claim Beijing coronavirus strain has European origins|
China has reported 37 new coronavirus cases including 25 in Beijing, where 183 patients are undergoing treatment, while the Chinese virologists said the strain of the new cluster of cases in the capital may have come from Europe. An initial epidemiological survey shows the coronavirus strain detected at the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing came from Europe, a report in Global Times said.
It said the strain had existed longer than the current coronavirus strain circulating in Europe. They say it is possible that the virus did not mutate during transport as it was sealed in frozen food, stored in cold and damp conditions.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told the media on Thursday that the “findings at Beijing reminded us of the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan last year, which happened at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market”.
The focus of the Huanan investigation was the wild animal stalls, even though the seafood sellers were right next to them, Wu said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already questioned the Chinese officials’ claims that the virus was traced to the imported salmon in Xinfadi and purported origins to Europe saying that there is no evidence to back it. It is not yet clear whether China shared the genome sequence with the WHO which had asked for it.
Ever since US President Donald Trump blamed China for not containing COVID-19 when it first showed up in Wuhan in December last
year, the debate over the origin of the virus has intensified.
For its part, China sought to shift the blame saying that the virus may have been originated elsewhere and surfaced in Wuhan.
President Trump and leaders of several countries have accused China of not being transparent in reporting the deadly disease, leading to huge human casualties and economic crisis across the world.
A new study by Harvard researchers recently said satellite images show an increase in traffic outside five hospitals in the Chinese city from late August to December raising doubts that the virus may have surfaced in Wuhan by that time.
The traffic spike coincided with a rise in online searches for information on symptoms like “cough” and “diarrhoea”. China said the study was “ridiculous” and based on “superficial” information, it said.
Most of the new cases have been linked to the Xinfadi wholesale food market. Until a week ago, the Chinese capital had been free of local transmission for 55 days. Xinfadi was quickly identified as the centre of the outbreak after the first patient bought fish, followed by many cases that had links to the Fengtai district market.
“More seafood vendors were infected, followed by beef and lamb vendors,” Wu was quoted as saying by Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. “The seafood vendors also showed symptoms earlier than others,” he said. The environmental samples taken from the market have shown that the places selling seafood, beef and lamb had more traces of the virus than others, he said.
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