A coronavirus known to live in bats is the closest strain of the 2019-nCoV virus that first appeared in China's Wuhan region and has since spread to other parts of Asia, with cases reported in Europe, Australia and North America, a study by Greek scientists at Athens University and the University of Crete has revealed.
Scientists who studied the genetic characteristics of the new virus, which has killed 132 people in China and infected thousands of others, have ruled out the possibility of it having come from reptiles and concluded that it is a new coronavirus and not the product of a combination with another virus from the same family.
As Sotiris Tsiodras, associate professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at Athens University Medical School, explained to Kathimerini, “the basic conclusions of the study are that the new virus has similar characteristics with strands of the coronavirus that can be found in bats, that it doesn't come from reptiles, and that one part of its DNA is new and has not been seen before in viruses of this family.”
The study, which is titled “Full Genome Evolutionary Analysis of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Rejects the Hypothesis of Emergence as a Result of a Recombination Event,” has been accepted for publication in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.
Countries around the world are stepping up plans to evacuate diplomatic staff and citizens from Chinese areas hit by the new coronavirus, which has spread quickly since its appearance in Wuhan in December.
In Greece meanwhile, 13 hospitals are on standby around the country to deal with its possible appearance.
All the hospitals are fully equipped to respond to any cases while protecting staff and patients from infection, health authorities have said.