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HomePoliticsWorldChinese find new coronaviruses in bats amid renewed calls to probe Covid...

Chinese find new coronaviruses in bats amid renewed calls to probe Covid origins

Amid the growing calls to probe into the origins of Covid-19, Chinese researchers have found a new batch of coronaviruses in bats

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Amid the growing calls to probe into the origins of Covid-19, Chinese researchers have found a new batch of coronaviruses in bats. One of them, Rhinolophus pusillus virus, maybe genetically the second-closest to the Covid-19 virus till now, the Chinese researchers have said.

The discoveries in a single, small region of Yunnan province in China indicate just how many coronaviruses can exist in bats and how many have the potential to spread to people and a wide range of domestic and wild animals, including pigs, cattle, mice, cats, dogs, and chickens.

In early 2020, a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified as the causative agent of a outbreak in Wuhan, China, that eventually turned into a global pandemic, killing lakhs of people.

The researchers collected 283 fecal samples, 109 oral swabs and 19 urine samples from small, forest-dwelling bats in a tropical botanical garden and adjacent areas in a county in Yunnan province between May 2019 and November 2020.

In a report published in the journal Cell, the Chinese researchers from Shandong University said, “In total, we assembled 24 novel genomes from different bat species, including four SARS-CoV-2 like coronaviruses.”

The Chinese researchers said one of the viruses was very similar, genetically to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that’s causing the ongoing pandemic.

“It would be the closest strain to SARS-CoV-2 except for genetic differences on the spike protein, the knob-like structure that the virus uses when attaching to cells,” they said.

The researchers wrote: “Together with the SARS-CoV-2 related virus collected from Thailand in June 2020, these results clearly demonstrate that viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 continue to circulate in bat populations, and in some regions might occur at a relatively high frequency.”

Now researchers are trying to locate the original source of SARS-CoV-2. Although bats are the likely source, the researchers said it’s quite likely that the virus infected an intermediary animal. The SARS virus that caused the 2002-2004 outbreak was traced to an animal called a civet cat.

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