Islamabad-Similar to how a smoke detector sounds off an alarm, certain genes sense when a virus enters the body, alerting of an intruder and triggering an immune response in most mammals. But, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology, pangolins — mammals that resemble an anteater with scales, lack two of those virus-sensing genes. The finding is significant because while pangolins can be carriers of coronavirus, they appear able to tolerate it through some other unknown mechanism. Understanding their evolutionary advantage may point to possible treatment options for coronavirus in humans. Researchers focused on pangolins because the exotic animal may have transmitted the virus to humans last year, creating the interspecies jump required for the current COVID-19 pandemic to take hold (bats have also been identified as possible agents of infection). To obtain their results, they analyzed the genome sequence of pangolins and compared it to other mammals including humans, cats, dogs, and cattle. “Our work shows that pangolins have survived through millions of years of evolution without a type of antiviral defense that is used by all other mammals,” says co-author Dr. Leopold Eckhart, of the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.