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Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: March 13, 2022 7:23 pm

Pangolin Covid WCS

An oral swab is collected from a pangolin by WCS wildlife health professionals at a wildlife rescue center in Viet Nam. Samples collected from pangolins confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade were screened for coronaviruses and other pathogens at Vietnamese research and diagnostic laboratories

Photo Credit: WCS/ Viet Nam

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have published a study in the journal Frontiers in Public Health showing that pangolins being trafficked in Viet Nam host SARS-CoV-2 related coronaviruses.

Previously these diseases had only been detected in pangolins within China.

The authors of the study have highlighted that wildlife trade can facilitate the transmission and amplification of diseases. They suggest that efforts to prevent epidemics in the future must be focussed on management of pathogen spillover from wildlife.

This study detected SARS-CoV-2 within Sunda pangolins which were present in the illegal wildlife trade in Viet Nam. The coronaviruses detected in this species are similar to those found in pangolins from Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, China.

Said the study’s lead author, Nguyen Thi Thanh Nga of WCS’s Viet Nam Program: “We know that SARS-like coronaviruses (SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1) can cause serious disease in humans. This study confirms the presence of coronaviruses in the SARS-CoV family in trafficked pangolins in Viet Nam. Eliminating the trade in pangolins and other wild mammals and birds will eliminate this high-risk pathway for viral spillover and pathogen emergence.”

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All eight species of pangolin have been listed on CITES Appendix I since 2017, prohibiting all international trade for commercial purposes. All four species in Asia are classed as endangered or critically endangered.

During the study the authors also looked at media reports relating to trafficking in Viet nam during 2016 and 2020. Multiple confiscation events where pangolins were recorded also included primates and other species. This supports concerns that moving animals from their wild habitats in to urban centers will create a risk of initiating a new pandemic.

The authors have indicated that at present wildlife regulations are too focused on the open markets and do not address the much longer wildlife supply chains, trade of both legally and illegally sourced wildlife from its source. 

Reform within policy is necessary to reduce the risk of future pandemics.

WCS worked closely with local partners in Viet Nam to carry out this research. We would like to thank and acknowledge the contribution of our One Health partners from the animal health sector (Department of Animal Health, Regional Animal Health Office No. 6, Dong Nai Sub-Department of Livestock Production and Animal Health, Viet Nam National University of Agriculture) and from the wildlife and environmental protection sector (Cuc Phuong National Park, Save Viet Nam’s Wildlife, Dong Nai Province Forest Protection Department). This study was carried out as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT-2 project. 

Learn more about Pangolins here - Pangolin Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Wildlife Conservation Society on their website – Wildlife Conservation Society

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