Cross-species transmission of the newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV

J Med Virol. 2020 Apr;92(4):433-440. doi: 10.1002/jmv.25682.


The current outbreak of viral pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, China, was caused by a novel coronavirus designated 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization, as determined by sequencing the viral RNA genome. Many initial patients were exposed to wildlife animals at the Huanan seafood wholesale market, where poultry, snake, bats, and other farm animals were also sold. To investigate possible virus reservoir, we have carried out comprehensive sequence analysis and comparison in conjunction with relative synonymous codon usage (RSCU) bias among different animal species based on the 2019-nCoV sequence. Results obtained from our analyses suggest that the 2019-nCoV may appear to be a recombinant virus between the bat coronavirus and an origin-unknown coronavirus. The recombination may occurred within the viral spike glycoprotein, which recognizes a cell surface receptor. Additionally, our findings suggest that 2019-nCoV has most similar genetic information with bat coronovirus and most similar codon usage bias with snake. Taken together, our results suggest that homologous recombination may occur and contribute to the 2019-nCoV cross-species transmission.

Keywords: 2019-nCoV; codon usage bias; cross-species transmission; phylogenetic analysis; recombination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus / classification
  • Betacoronavirus / genetics*
  • Betacoronavirus / physiology
  • Bungarus / genetics
  • Bungarus / virology
  • COVID-19
  • Chiroptera / genetics
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Codon Usage
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome, Viral
  • Homologous Recombination
  • Host Specificity
  • Humans
  • Naja naja / genetics
  • Naja naja / virology
  • Phylogeny
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Snakes / genetics
  • Snakes / virology*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / genetics*
  • Zoonoses


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus