As wildlife makes its way to restaurants, the chances that it is infected with a coronavirus increases at each step of the supply chain, the New York Times reports.
Researchers led by the Wildlife Conservation Society's Sarah Olson used PCR-based testing to determine whether one of six coronaviruses were present among wild field rats, farms that raise field rats and other animals for consumption, and bat guano farms in Southeast Asia. As they report in a preprint posted to BioRxiv, the researchers found that as the animals progressed along the supply chain from field to restaurant, a higher proportion of animals tested positive for one of those coronaviruses.
Olson tells the Times that she expected to see an increase along the supply chain as more animals come in close contact with each other, but not to the extent she and her colleagues found. In their preprint, they report that about 21 percent of field rats sold by traders tested positive for one of the viruses, while 32 percent of rats sold at large markets did and 56 percent of those at restaurants tested positive.
According to the Times, the analysis underscores the risks of the wildlife trade.