A coronavirus circulating around the world may have close relatives that have not yet been found – a hint that the current pandemic will not be the last to pose a threat to humans.
New research published in the journal Nature Microbiology on Tuesday finds that the current strain, known in the scientific literature as SARS-CoV-2, is genetically different from other known viruses that spread in bats between the ages of 40 and 70.
As coronaviruses recombine and develop into new species, there is no doubt that other strains appeared in the Chinese bat population in the same year. This means that other viruses more closely related to SARS-CoV-2 than its closest relative may cause future outbreaks.
“Of this ancestor, there are probably other offspring in the 1970s and 1980s, and there are probably other species that have existed and quietly propagated in bats for the past 40, 50 or 60 years,” said Maciej Boni, a biologist at the Biology Center. Dynamics of infectious diseases in the state of Penis and co-author of the study. “This means that there will probably be another coronavirus pandemic. Whether this will happen in 2025, Whether in 2075, No one knows. “
Studies have shown that although the SARS-CoV-2 virus can also infect pangolins, mammals native to China, Southeast Asia, and Africa south of Africa, the virus was most likely transmitted to humans directly from the bat.
“There is no evidence that pangolins facilitate adaptation in humans,” the researchers wrote.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a carbecovirus, a subset of the coronavirus family that also includes SARS, another virus that has caused severe respiratory disease in humans. The most SARS-CoV-2-associated virus, known as RaTG13, was detected in equine horseshoe bats in China’s Yunnan province in 2013.
Studies show that the two viruses are about 96 percent similar. Evolutionarily speaking, this 4 percent gap is a genetic chain; there are fewer differences between humans and orangutans than between the two viruses.
The dangerous SARS-CoV-2 virus in humans and all its undiscovered relatives is that its spike protein binds to ACE-2 receptors in cells of the lower respiratory tract. These cells become infected, spread the virus, and cause COVID-19 disease, which has killed more than 140,000 people in the United States to date.
Researchers are unlikely to ever convincingly identify an index case of the very first person infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a bat, probably for some time in 2019. November. However, more bat population research around the world is likely to emerge. some of the close relatives of the current virus, Boni said.
“We will never find the very first case, but it is likely that with better sampling, we will find bat lines that may have circulated in bats in 2010 or 2015, but were very similar to the current SARS-2 virus,” he said. . “The more samples we take, the more likely we are to find a newer bat virus.”
The researchers called for the establishment of an international surveillance network covering both bat populations around the world and people who may be infected with the new viruses. Previous research has been limited to a few researchers who have studied several bat populations. According to Boni, surveillance is not enough to fully capture the true number of potentially harmful pathogens that can spread to humans.
“Of course, the extraordinary task is to start taking tens of thousands of bats and describing all their viruses,” Boni said. “When you’re trying to catch what’s coming from the animal population to the human population, you need care on both sides.”
“It simply came to our notice then. It can’t be a partial effort, “he said.