Scientists discovered two viruses in frozen bats and bat droppings stored in Cambodian and Japanese laboratories. They say it is the first time close relatives of the novel coronavirus have been found outside China.
The report appeared in Nature News & Comment saying scientists are briskly searching for the pathogen’s point of origin and found a close relative to the coronavirus that has infected the world since last year, in Cambodia.
The report says the coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, like its cousin SARS-CoV, which caused outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the early 2000s, likely originated in horseshoe bats (genus Rhinolophus).
However, some evidence suggests that the virus may have passed through another animal before infecting humans.
A team discovered the virus in two Shamel’s horseshoe bats (R. shameli), which were first captured in 2010, frozen and stored. Zooming in on a small segment of the virus’s genome confirmed it is related to SARS-CoV-2.
The team found the new virus resembled that from SARS-CoV-2, as well as that from its closest known relative, a bat coronavirus called RaTG13.
Whether the virus found in Cambodia can infect human cells remains a mystery, says Live Science.
It says uncovering new coronaviruses in horseshoe bats can provide hints about how SARS-CoV-2 made the leap to humans — and help anticipate future pandemics.
On Nov 10, the World Health Organisation began an investigation on the origin of the COVID.
It says identifying the source will be tricky. Facing challenges, it also says investigators will need to grapple with the sensitive political situation.
Who says the search will start in Wuhan the Chinese city where the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was first identified.
It will also expand the investigation across China and beyond.
“Finding an animal with a SARS-CoV-2 infection is like looking for a needle in the world’s largest haystack. They may never find a ‘smoking bat’” or other animal, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York City says.