New Covid-like Viruses Discovered in Bats with Potential to Jump to Humans
New research shows that a Covid-like virus has been found in bats in southern China. This virus could spread to humans and animals.
Scientists from China and Australia took samples from 149 bats in Yunnan province, which is near Laos and Myanmar, and found five viruses that are “likely to be harmful to humans or livestock.”
One of them was a coronavirus found in bats that was very similar to both Sars-Cov-2 and Sars.
Prof. Eddie Holmes, an evolutionary biologist and virologist at the University of Sydney and co-author of the report, said, “This means that viruses like Sars-Cov-2 are still circulating in Chinese bats and continue to pose an emergence risk.”
The research, which was published as a pre-print and hasn’t been reviewed by other scientists yet, showed that bats were often infected with more than one virus at the same time.
This is important because it shows that existing viruses could swap parts of their genetic code to make new pathogens. This is called recombination.
Prof. Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham who was not involved in the study, said, “The main take-home message is that each bat can host a lot of different virus species, sometimes all at the same time.”
“Such co-infections, especially with related viruses like coronavirus, give the virus a chance to swap important pieces of genetic information, which naturally leads to new variants,” he said.
Professor Stuart Neil, head of the infectious diseases department at King’s College London, said, “This study gives us a very important look at the evolution and ecology of coronaviruses, including how often they can recombine and form new species.”
It shows that “new spillovers to humans are a clear and present threat,” he said.
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