A NEW Covid-like virus has been discovered in a bat, raising fears it could infect humans.
Scientists in the US have warned that the disease could be resistant to current vaccines.
Covid-19 has been circulating for over two years now and millions of Britons have been vaccinated or have some sort of protection against previous infection.
The current Omicron strain has been proven to be milder than others and many worldwide are learning to live with the bug.
But this new development adds to a growing body of evidence that sarbecoviruses — members of the coronavirus family — are widespread in Asia and Eastern Europe.
Lead author of the study Dr. Michael Letko, of Washington State University in the US, said: “Our research further shows that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside Asia – even in places like western Russia where the Khosta-2 virus was found – are also a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2.”
The exact origin of the virus is not clear and is currently under investigation by a team from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Khosta-2 was first found in a horseshoe bat two years ago and medics discovered that, like Covid, it can infect human cells if passed from animals to humans.
The researchers said their findings highlight the importance of developing vaccines that cover a broad spectrum of viruses — not just one line like Covid-19.
dr. Letko added that there are currently groups that are still trying to come up with a vaccine that will protect us from the next Covid variant.
He added: “Unfortunately, many of our current vaccines are designed for specific viruses that we know infect human cells or those that appear to pose the greatest risk of infecting us.
“But that’s a list that’s constantly changing. We need to broaden the design of these vaccines to protect against all sarbecoviruses.”
Hundreds of sarbecoviruses have been found in recent years – especially in bats in Asia.
In most cases, they are unable to infect humans and initially the Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 viruses were not a threat.
dr. Letko said: “Genetically, these strange Russian viruses looked like some of the others discovered elsewhere in the world, but because they didn’t resemble SARS-CoV-2, no one really thought they were anything to get too excited about. about.
“But when we looked more closely at it, we were really surprised to find that they could infect human cells. That changes a little bit of our understanding of these viruses, where they come from and what regions they are in.”
In the journal PLoS Pathogens, medics write that Khosta-2 exhibited “disturbing properties.”
This is because, like Covid-19, it also uses a spike protein to infect human cells.
This happens when it attaches to a receptor protein called ACE2.
Further testing by the team found that antibodies were ineffective against serum from patients previously infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Although it lacks some of the genes that Covid has, there is a risk that it could be combined with Omicron, the experts added.
dr. Letko added: “When you see SARS-2 has this ability to flow back from humans to wildlife.
“Then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals with these traits that we really don’t want them to have. It creates this scenario where you keep rolling the dice until they combine to form a potentially riskier virus.”