The question has puzzled scientists since the virus first emerged in China in December 2019 and spread around the world. Where did it come from?
Now, Chinese researchers may have identified the culprit: the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra – snakes eaten as delicacies in some parts of China.
Coronavirus is transmitted through the air and infects the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract of birds and mammals.
While most members of the coronavirus family only cause mild flu-like symptoms, some can cause deadly respiratory illness.
Chinese scientists had earlier suggested that the bug may have originated from bats. Surprisingly, a more detailed genetic analysis of the virus indicates that the new strain might have come from snakes!
The virus first emerged in humans in Wuhan, a major city in central China. Most of the first group of patients hospitalized were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market.
Apart from fish, however, the market also sold processed meats and live consumable animals.
The usual fare on display included live donkeys, sheep, hedgehogs, camels, foxes, badgers, rats – and, yes, snakes!
Watch the video below for more on the virus.