On Thursday, Chinese researchers found a new batch of coronaviruses in bats. One of the strains was the second-closest yet, genetically, to the COVID-19 virus that caused the pandemic. The discovery was in a single, small region of Yunnan province, and unveils just how many coronaviruses there are in bats and how many have the potential to spread to people.
The University of Shandong and colleagues have been collecting samples of small forest-dwelling bats from May 2019 to November 2020. They would test their urine and feces as well as collect swabs from the bats’ mouths. The researcher’s report was published in the journal cell and said “ in total, we assembled 24 novel coronavirus genomes from different bat species,”
One of the strains they found, was genetically similar to the SARS-COV-2 virus that’s causing the current pandemic. The only difference was on the spike protein, the knob-like structure the virus uses to cling on to cells. Researchers are still trying to figure out where the virus specifically came from. With bats being a valid and likely source, it is possible the virus infected an intermediary animal.
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