A new virus like SARS-CoV-2 discovered in China

Researchers have identified five viruses that can cause disease in humans or livestock. In particular, it is closely related to SARS-CoV-2 and SARS.

According to Telegrah, the new study found a nCoV-like virus identified in bats in southern China. Chinese and Australian scientists took samples from 149 bats across Yunnan province, which borders Laos and Myanmar. As a result, they identified five viruses that “have the potential to cause disease in humans or animals.” Among these, bat coronaviruses are closely related to SARS and SARS-CoV-2.

◆ Viruses recombine to form new pathogens

University of Sydney evolutionary biologist and virologist Professor Eddy Holmes, co-author of the study, said the findings suggest viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 are still circulating in bats and continue to pose a risk.

The study is published as a preprint and is peer reviewed. The authors found that bats are often infected with multiple viruses at the same time. This information is important because it shows the ability of existing viruses to exchange (or recombine) their genetic code to form new pathogens.

Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham who was not involved in the study, said: “One bat can contain so many different viruses, and sometimes it can host many viruses at the same time. In particular, the coronavirus Co -infection with related viruses such as .

◆ An obvious threat

Professor Stuart Neal, Head of Infectious Diseases at King’s College London, added: “This study provides very important insights into the evolution and ecology of coronaviruses and the extent to which they reproduce, combine and often transform into new species .”

The expert emphasized that this is also evidence of the clear threat that exists regarding the risk of spreading new infectious diseases to people.

Analysis previously estimated that up to 400,000 people catch the virus from bats each year across southern China and Southeast Asia.

One of the five viruses highlighted as “worrying” has characteristics of both SARS and SARS-CoV-2. SARS has killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 since it began in 2003. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, the death toll is in the tens of millions.

This virus is called BtSY2.

In particular, BtSY2 has a receptor binding domain that is very similar to nCoV. The receptor binding domain is part of the spike protein that viruses use to attach to human cells. This is the goal that most Corona 19 vaccines are currently aiming for.

BtSY2 is also the most similar to nCoV ever. This suggests that BtSY2 can also infect humans.

“This is very similar to the BANAAL bat virus from Laos and another virus we have seen in China,” Professor Holmes said.

The new study does not explain how SARS-CoV-2 was initially transmitted to humans, nor does it rule out a laboratory accident that released the virus. However, it helps scientists track the possible evolution of the virus.

The study follows new analyzes presented at a health conference in Singapore in early November suggesting that some bat coronaviruses share a common ancestor with SARS-CoV-2 2016. They are based on comparisons of genome fragments from coronaviruses.

Co-author Professor Joel Wartheim, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, San Diego, said: “We need to sequence the entire viral genome of the spreading bat virus, not just fragments.” If we do not sequence small pieces of the genome of this virus, we may miss important pieces that reveal the history of SARS-CoV-2. “

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