Researchers in China say they have uncovered a new batch of coronavirus in bats, similar to the COVID-19 virus that has swept the earth.
The researchers said they collected samples from small bats that lived in forests in Yunnan province between May 2019 and November 2020. The samples consisted of urine, feces and mouth sticks.
“In total, we collected 24 new coronavirus genomes from various bat species, including four SARS-CoV-2-like coronaviruses,” the researchers wrote in the journal Cell.
The researchers said that a strain derived from the Rhinolophus pusillus bat species has a particularly strong resemblance to SARS-CoV-2, however, with differences in the spike protein that the viruses use to bind to cells they infect.
“Together with the SARS-CoV-2-related virus collected from Thailand in June 2020, these results clearly show that viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 continue to circulate in bat populations and may occur in some regions. with a relatively high frequency, “they wrote.
The study, released Thursday, comes amid heightened awareness surrounding the origins of the COVID-1
Many researchers suspect that the disease originated in a bat, although it is possible that it passed through an intermediate animal before infecting humans.
The United States has also pushed for an investigation into whether the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China – a claim that has ranked Beijing.
Observers have noted that even though the virus leaked from a laboratory, it does not necessarily mean that the virus was created in one and could only have been studied there before a scientist left the plant while being unknowingly infected.