Coronavirus origin

Coronavirus origin

Professor Malik Peiris comments on the origin of the coronavirus

Professor Malik Peiris is a Sri Lankan scientist who has been instrumental in identifying and controlling the SARS virus that spread in 2003. He has also contributed to research into the 2015 outbreak of the measles virus in the Middle East.

Professor Malik Peiris is a member of the Royal Society of Britain (Royal Society), one of the world's foremost scientists, and has published over 600 research papers in world-renowned scientific journals.

Professor Malik Peiris, who works in the Department of Virology at the Institute of Social Health at the University of Hong Kong, and his team are researching ways to identify the new coronavirus and ways to control it.

Professor Malik Peiris joins the BBC Sinhala Service for a special discussion on the new coronavirus and related research. He also spoke about the current situation in Sri Lanka regarding the coronavirus.

What could be the origin of the new coronavirus?

The new coronavirus originated in the Wuhan region of China. We know that many similar viruses can be found in bats. Rhinoceros bats, a very small species of bat, carry a very similar virus. It was likely the originator of the virus. However, the virus could have been carried by an intermediary. This means that bats can transmit the virus to any animal. The virus is transmitted to humans by that animal. It is common in China to eat wild animal meat in the winter. Therefore, as mentioned above, there is a possibility that the virus may reach humans. But that has not been confirmed yet.

What is the current situation around the world in this regard?

At the moment, the epidemic in Wuhan and its province of Hubei is at an all-time high. But patients are being reported in other parts of China as well. The most common cause of infection is travel or living in Wuhan. A significant number of patients are reported from several provinces in China. We cannot say whether the virus has spread within those areas. Patients are also being reported outside of China. This means that the coronavirus has been identified in people who have come to other countries from China, mainly from the Wuhan region. Sadly, there is now evidence that other patients may have been infected with the virus. In Germany, for example, the first patient was infected with the H5N1 virus. This is a situation to consider.

How do you and your team contribute to the research on the new coronavirus?

We have been doing research on coronavirus for a long time. When SARS became an epidemic in 2003, we were involved in identifying and controlling the virus. Then, when the MERS virus emerged in the Middle East, we became actively involved in the research. Obviously, we have expertise in this field. It is against this background that we are researching this new coronavirus. The first thing we need to do is look at the research needed to identify this new virus. Because this is a new virus. We and others have done research in this regard. The diagnostic test methods have been published on the World Health Organization's website. The necessary treatment for these conditions has been provided to several countries including Sri Lanka.

Approximately how long will it take to find a cure or vaccine for the new coronavirus?

This is a new virus. It can take months or even years to find a specific drug or vaccine that can fight the virus. It is difficult for us to imagine a definite vaccine in a short period of time. Antiviral drugs that respond to SARS and Mars are sometimes used for these new coronavirus patients. Because there are similarities between these viruses. It depends on whether it is clinically effective or not. We and other groups are working hard for that. It is important to note, however, that the virus was first reported in early January. It was identified in mid-January. Less than a month has passed since the first report was made.

Coronavirus origin


At present one case of coronavirus infection has been reported from Sri Lanka. She is a Chinese woman. There is a certain fear among the people in this regard. Especially when it comes to wearing masks. Many stores have run out of masks. What should Sri Lankans do now to protect themselves from the virus?

I do not think there is a need to wear masks in Sri Lanka at the moment. Yes, we know one tourist patient has been reported from Sri Lanka. But so far there is no evidence that the virus has spread to other people locally. Therefore, there is no point in wearing masks at this time. Honestly, I do not see the need to wear masks in a country like Sri Lanka at the moment. But the situation in China is different. But it is important to keep in mind the basic health practices that can help prevent respiratory viral illnesses, such as influenza and the new coronavirus. This is because the virus is spread by coughing and sneezing. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, someone nearby breathes in the virus. Or the virus, which is released through coughing or sneezing, accumulates on the surrounding surface. The virus can enter the body when someone touches that surface and touches the eye, nose or mouth. The virus cannot be transmitted by touching the surface of the hand. But the virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Therefore, it is important to practice good hygiene after hand washing in public places, such as public transportation. It is also important that people with coughs and sneezes do not do so in front of other people's faces.

 Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan

Restricting the transmission of coronavirus from person to person in countries at high risk of the disease spreads uncontrollably; Early identification, isolation and care of patients; Information communication; Minimizing social and economic impact; Support international coordination and operations to reduce the spread of the virus from animals; Increase pre-preparedness and response operations in each country regarding the risk of coronavirus; Accelerate research and innovation through the implementation of this Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

According to the Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for controlling the virus, the spread of the new coronavirus virus is very high in China and high regionally and globally. The risk assessment will be determined by several factors, including the level of effectiveness of existing national preparedness and response measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Therefore, strategic preparedness and response plans have taken nationally to prevent the spread of the disease globally will have a significant i