Scientists discover new coronaviruses in bats with the potential to jump to humans

This is important because it demonstrates the potential for existing viruses to swap parts of their genetic code — a process known as recombination — to form new pathogens.

“The main take-home message is that individual bats can harbor a large number of different virus types, and sometimes host them at the same time,” said Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the research. .

“Such co-infections, especially with related viruses such as MERS-CoV, give the virus an opportunity to swap important pieces of genetic information, which naturally leads to the emergence of new variants,” he said.

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A clear and present threat

Professor Stuart Neill, Head of Infectious Diseases at King’s College London, added: “This study gives us a very important glimpse into the evolution and ecology of [coronaviruses]room for them to reunite and skip into new genres regularly.”

He added that it shows “a clear and present threat of new human implications”.

Previously, the analysis estimated that up to 400,000 people become infected with bat-borne viruses each year in southern China and Southeast Asia.

Of the five viruses designated as “viruses of concern,” one — known as BtSY2 — has characteristics of both SARS, a virus that killed 774 people and infected 8,000 in the 2003 outbreak, and SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19. 19 diseases.

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Of note, BtSY2 had a receptor-binding domain — part of the spiky protein it uses to attach to human cells, which most Covid-19 vaccines target — and is very similar to Sars-Cov-2, perhaps its closest relative in even animal viruses. right Now . This indicates that BtSY2 may also be able to infect humans.


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