Scientists find new coronaviruses in bats
Chinese scientists have claimed that they have discovered a new batch of coronaviruses in bats, including one that may be the second closest to the Sars-CoV-2.
The researchers collected samples of urine, faeces, and saliva from bats that lived in the forests of Yunnan Province, southwestern China between May 2019 and March 2020, CNN News reported.
They assembled 24 novel coronavirus genomes, including "four SARS-CoV-2-like" diseases.
"In total, we assembled 24 novel coronavirus genomes from different bat species, including four SARS-CoV-2 like coronaviruses," the research was published in the journal Cell.
Scientists found that one strain of the virus discovered in the bat species Rhinolophus pusillus had a striking resemblance to SARS-CoV-2, although there were differences in spike proteins.
"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," the scientists said.
Researchers are trying to probe the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Although a bat is a likely source, it's possible the virus infected an intermediary animal. For instance, the SARS virus that caused an outbreak in 2002-2004 was tracked to an animal called a civet cat.
However, bats are well-known reservoir hosts for a variety of viruses that cause severe diseases in humans such as the Ebola virus and, most notably, coronaviruses.