EcoHealth Alliance Statement on Potential Wildlife Reservoir for Wuhan Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

At EcoHealth Alliance, we haven’t seen evidence ample enough to suggest a snake reservoir for Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This work is really interesting, but when we compare the genetic sequence of this new virus with all other known coronaviruses, all of its closest relatives have origins in mammals, specifically bats. Therefore, without further details on testing of animals in the markets, it looks like we are no closer to knowing this virus’ natural reservoir.

Meanwhile, we would like to point to what we already do know. Our work shows that human activities are the factors driving outbreaks like these: the wildlife trade creates unnatural interactions between people and wild animals, and this can allow the spread of viruses between the two. We have seen how investment in prevention can be effective in the case of chronic diseases like heart and lung disease; EcoHealth Alliance encourages expanded investment in prevention when it comes to infectious diseases as well, so that we can work to stop diseases like this one before they start making people sick. This investment could be into better sanitation in markets, working to educate people on the risk of hunting, butchering and eating wildlife, better longterm health surveillance for farmers and market workers in emerging disease hotspots, and better surveillance for unknown viruses in wildlife.

We need to do all of this prevention at the same time as we work on vaccines and drugs to cure the currently known viruses – that’s the best way to get ahead of pandemics.

About EcoHealth Alliance:
Building on 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is the premier nonprofit organization committed to a One Health approach to track the migration of deadly viruses from animals into humans. EcoHealth Alliance research has led to major breakthroughs on the origins and spread of new and emerging diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, and Nipah virus. EcoHealth Alliance works globally in hotspot regions where the threat of outbreaks is highest. Through innovations in research, training, capacity building, and policy initiatives, we develop tools and interventions to prevent pandemics and promote conservation.
Press contact: Robert Kessler, (646) 868-4711 or