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The potential for a new coronoavirus, with bats as a possible transmitter

The next coronavirus may already be circulating in bats, study suggests, by Tom Avril, Philadelphia Inquirer,  July 29, 2020   While the exact origin of the coronavirus remains murky, scientists have been racing to determine how it jumped from animals to humans so they can prevent another pandemic.

The next one could just be a matter of time, a study published this week suggests.   The authors said a virus with similar ability to infect humans may already be out there, carried by a type of bats known for having horseshoe-shaped “leafs” on their noses.

Scientists made that prediction after constructing a family tree of the coronavirus — tracing its ancestry by comparing its genetic code with that of other coronaviruses found in bats, humans, and a scaly animal called the pangolin.

The lineage of the virus that causes COVID-19 appears to have branched off from its closest viral relatives about 40 to 70 years ago, the authors wrote in Nature Microbiology. And other viruses in the same branch of the family likely share a similar ability to latch onto cells in human airways, said Maciej F. Boni, a Pennsylvania State University biologist and lead study author.

“It’s very likely there are lots of other lineages that nobody knows about, because nobody has sampled, that are circulating quietly in bats,” he said. “Potentially all of them could have this ability to infect human cells.”……

 by using a battery of statistical techniques, the scientists identified three genetic regions in the coronavirus that appeared to have remained intact for decades. They identified the same three regions in another coronavirus that came from a bat found in Yunnan, a province in southern China near Laos.

That virus cannot infect humans but is otherwise highly similar to the one causing the pandemic, which was first identified in human patients in the city of Wuhan. The two viruses seem to have branched apart in the family tree sometime in the 1960s, and almost certainly have undiscovered cousins with the potential to infect humans, said Boni, who collaborated with scientists in Europe and China…….

By itself, the presence of similar coronaviruses in bats would not mean another pandemic is imminent, said Kevin Olival, vice president for research at EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that works with scientists worldwide to protect people and animals from infectious disease…….

What is not in dispute is that viruses have been jumping from animals to humans for centuries, and that it will happen again.

And coronaviruses carried by bats are a prime suspect.

Similar predictions have been made before — such as in 2013, when a Science magazine article was headlined “Bats May Be Carrying the Next SARS Pandemic.”

Sure enough, as the world now knows too well, that came true.


August 2, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, health

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