Rats at food markets and restaurants found to carry several strains of coronavirus

The origins of the current Covid-19 pandemic remain contested

Rats destined for Southeast Asia’s markets and restaurants have been found to carry multiple coronaviruses, a new study shows, adding to concerns over the trade in wild animals.

While the strains detected in the rodents are different from the Covid-19 disease that caused the ongoing pandemic, researchers say their findings highlight the dangers of transporting large numbers of animals together in confined spaces.

A collaborative study by researchers from the US and Vietnam found that the proportion of positive coronavirus cases increased as traders moved the live animals from fields to markets and eateries.

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The results suggest that the rats had been picking up infections in transit, with the mixing of multiple coronaviruses representing “maximal risk for end consumers”.

“While these aren’t dangerous viruses they offer information on how viruses can be amplified under these conditions,” said Sarah Olsen of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which led the study.

Read more: The Independent