In this period, the eyes of the scientific community are on SARS-CoV-2, the Coronavirus of the ongoing pandemic. Recall that Coronavirus does not mean only SARS-CoV-2 which is triggering the COVID-19 pandemic, but a whole family of viruses: i “Coronaviridae”. In particular, scientists are also trying to reconstruct the path that the aforementioned virus followed, making the "leap of species".

What is meant by "leap of species"? Scientifically termed CTS (Cross-Species Transmission), it is the phenomenon by which a virus introduces itself into an individual of a host species other than the one it usually infects, it then manages to spread among its populations. Often, the reason this happens depends on the fact that viruses with high mutation rates, change and manage to overcome the immune defenses of the new host.

Some examples of CTS that affect humans are SARS, Ebola, anger, avian flu, swine flu e, at this point, also COVID-19. In the case of the latter, a short time ago a species of bat had been identified (Rhinolophus affinis) as a probable carrier, as a Coronavirus strain very similar to SARS-CoV-2 was found in it.

In a study published a couple of days ago, it is noted that the Borneo pangolin (Manis javanica) is another serious candidate. In fact, have been found 2 Coronavirus strains very similar to SARS-CoV-2 in pangolin specimens recovered in different regions of China.

Because he could be a candidate? Why like bats, pangolins also end up in Chinese "wildlife markets" (now closed by the government), where many species of wild animals are sold. In these "markets" illegal trafficking often reigns supreme, and armored animals, protagonists of this article, they were the most smuggled mammals in the world last year. The case of the seizure of a cargo of 14 tons of pangolin scales in Singapore (last link between sources).

Although international laws prohibit the trafficking of all species of these mammals, in Asia they are difficult to apply, basically for a cultural question. In fact, the scales, that make up the armor of these animals, they are considered therapeutic by traditional Chinese medicine and the meat is considered a delicacy.

Therefore, as also pointed out by the authors of the study published a couple of days ago, the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has potentially exploded from illegally trafficked wild animals at risk of extinction, it is hoped that it will decree the definitive closure of these "wildlife markets". Not only, it is hoped that it will also act as an engine to fight illegal trafficking more decisively and to undergo a real cultural change, about the perception of wild animals.