Snakes – including the Chinese krait and the cobra – may be the source of the newly discovered 2019-nCoV coronavirus that triggered an outbreak of infectious respiratory illness in China, according to scientists.

According to Aljazeera News, the illness was first reported in late December 2019 in Wuhan, a large city in central China, and has spread rapidly, killing at least 17 people and infecting 571 in China.

Infected travelers from Wuhan have spread the virus in China and other countries including Thailand, Japan, the United States and the Philippines.

Scientists in China have been able to determine and document the genetic code of the new virus, leading to its positive identification as a new strain of coronavirus.

Further research published by scientists from five Chinese universities presented a study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV, finding that it was distinct from but closely related to SARS-like coronavirus samples from bats.

This means that 2019-nCoV originated as a zoonotic virus, or one that was transmitted from animals to humans, but there is now evidence to suggest human-to-human transmission.

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