Scientists discover new coronaviruses in bats that can jump to humans

This is important because it demonstrates the potential for existing viruses to exchange bits 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 plethora of different virus species and occasionally be their hosts at the same time,” said Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham who was not involved in the study. .

“Such co-infections, especially with related viruses like the coronavirus, give the virus the opportunity to exchange critical bits of genetic information, naturally giving rise to new variants,” he said.

‘Clear and current threat’

Professor Stuart Neil, Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at King’s College London, added: “This study gives us a very important snapshot of the evolution and ecology of [coronaviruses]the space for them to recombine and regularly skip over new species.

It shows a “clear and current threat of new spillovers to humans,” he added.

Previously, analysis has estimated that as many as 400,000 people are infected by viruses transmitted by bats each year in southern China and Southeast Asia.

Of the five viruses labeled “viruses of concern,” one — known as BtSY2 — had characteristics of both Sars, a virus that killed 774 people and infected 8,000 in a 2003 outbreak, and Sars-Cov-2, which caused Covid -19 causes. disease.

Note that BtSY2 had a receptor binding domain – the part of the spike protein it uses to attach to human cells, which most Covid-19 vaccines target – very similar to Sars-Cov-2, possibly the closest seen in animal viruses to date. This suggests that BtSY2 may also be able to infect humans.

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