Scientists have been using machine learning to pick out the animal kingdom’s prime suspects for the next coronavirus, and we’re sorry to report it spells party over for a number of familiar favourites.
Feeding an algorithm all the biological evidence we currently have on viruses and their probable host species, virologists put artificial intelligence to work in search of any notable patterns in the data.
Quite predictably, that only means more bad news for the civet – whose PR was already on the floor since its infamous role in the original Sars outbreak in 2003.
The bat’s reputation has taken another beating, too, leaving it hanging on for dear life to its lucrative sponsorship deals with white rum companies, Spanish football clubs and Russian military intelligence agencies.
And then, like a trailer for one of EastEnders’ many whodunnit storylines, there are those characters in the frame who happen to be far closer to home. Indeed, the algorithm also implicates the hedgehog, the rabbit and the cat, who can now all wave goodbye to their fancy-free lives soiling, humping and eating whatever they want without scrutiny.
From here onwards, we’ll be watching that dirty little lot like a hawk – unless hawks get dragged into all this next, in which case let’s just say we’ll be keeping a close eye on them.