Conclusions

Large percentages of coronaviruses were detected in bats and rodents at sites where people have close contact and interact with wildlife including sub-interfaces along wildlife trade chains, wildlife farms, and artificial bat roosts where bat guano is collected for use as fertilizer. The high proportion of coronavirus positive samples at these human-wildlife interfaces highlights the potential for human exposure to wildlife origin coronaviruses. The observed viral amplification along the wildlife trade supply chain for human consumption, illustrated by the field rat trade in this study, likely resulted from the admixing of different species or sub-populations, and the close confinement of stressed live animals. This highlights the potential for coronavirus (and other virus) shedding and amplification along other wildlife supply chains (e.g., civets, pangolins) where similarly large numbers of animals are collected from a wide range of locations, transported, and confined. The detections of rodent, bat, and avian coronaviruses confirm concerns about productions systems and supply chains that increase contact between wildlife and domestic species. Livestock and people living in close contact with rodents, bats, and birds shedding coronaviruses provides opportunities for intra- and inter-species transmission and potential recombination of coronaviruses.

Human behavior is facilitating the spillover of viruses, such as coronavirus, from animals to people. The wildlife trade supply chain from the field to restaurant and end consumer provides multiple opportunities for such spillover events to occur [1]. Since the SARS outbreak, broad scientific consensus exists that long term, structural changes, and wildlife trade and market closures will be required to prevent future epidemics. To minimize the public health risks of viral disease emergence from the consumption of wildlife and to safeguard livestock-based production systems, we recommend precautionary measures that restrict the killing, commercial breeding, transport, buying, selling, storage, processing and consuming of wild animals. The time has come for the global community to collectively assume responsibility through targeted wildlife trade reform. The world must also increase vigilance through building and improving detection capacity; actively conducting surveillance to detect and characterize coronaviruses in humans, wildlife, and livestock; and to inform human behaviors in order to reduce zoonotic viral transmission to humans. The more opportunities we provide for humans to come into direct contact with a multitude of wildlife species, the higher the likelihood of another spillover event. The costs of inaction are astronomically high and we must ensure that future food production and security is sustainable, just, and supports global health.

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