Researchers claim the deadly coronavirus spreading around the world from China may have been spread to humans from snakes.
According to the researchers, the SARS-like virus called Coronavirus may have been passed to humans from snakes sold at an open-air market in Wuhan, China.
The deadly virus appeared in China last month has killed at least 17 people and infected nearly 600.
Daily Mail reports that researchers have analysed strains of the new coronavirus and compared them to those from others found in different animal hosts like birds, snakes, bats and humans.
They found that snakes were susceptible to the most similar version of the coronavirus and likely provided a reservoir for the viral strain to grow stronger and replicate.
Snakes often hunt bats – the original hosts in the 2003 SARS outbreak – and it is thought the 2019-nCoV strain could have jumped from them to the reptiles before being passed to humans, Metro UK reports.
They added that further tests are needed to verify the origin of the latest epidemic. However, the market has since been disinfected and shut down, making the task even more challenging.