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China’s coronavirus is closest to one from bats, not snakes
Discovery: The deadly virus in China has been described in detail for the first time. The new virus, dubbed nCoV-2019, is in the same family as SARS—a coronavirus that caused global mayhem starting in 2003—and even uses the same receptor to hack into a person’s lung cells, the team from the Wuhan Institute for Virology found.

Outbreak: The current epidemic, which started in mid-December, has already affected more than 800 people, killing at least 26. It may have originated in an animal market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million that Chinese authorities have put under quarantine.

Snake snafu: Another Chinese team this week claimed the virus could have come from snakes, but that widely-reported finding already looks like a mistake. The new analysis shows its genetic makeup is 96% identical to that of a coronavirus found in bats. Bats were also the ultimate source of SARS, scientists believe.

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