Scientists find COVID-like viruses in bats

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study from France’s Pasteur Institute and the National University of Laos, researchers found a new clue to the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.

They found bats living in caves in Laos carry a similar pathogen that could potentially infect humans directly.

The findings showed that viruses genetically close to the SARS-CoV-2 virus exist in nature among bat species in the limestone caves of northern Laos.

Of the viruses they identified among the hundreds of bats tested in Vientiane Province, three were found to closely resemble the virus that causes COVID-19, particularly in the mechanism for latching on to human cells.

The team says their findings suggest the new viruses may have the same potential for infecting humans as early strains of SARS-CoV-2.

The pandemic coronavirus potentially evolved through mixing between different viruses and species of bats. But they also warn that there were still key differences between the viruses found and SARS-CoV-2.

In addition, the findings showed the risks inherent in the living wildlife trade, where markets can help drive cross-species zoonotic transmission.

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The study was posted on the site Research Square. One author of the study is Marc Eloit.

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