Covid-like virus discovered in bats in China – and ‘it could spread to humans’

A Covid-like virus has been detected in bats in southern China with experts fearing the disease could be transmitted to humans.

The virus, known as BtSY2, is closely related to SARA-CoV-2, the one that causes coronavirus, which has killed more than six million people worldwide after it first sprung up in China in 2019.

The new strain is one of five "viruses of concern" found in bats across China's Yunnan province that are "likely to be pathogenic to humans or livestock," scientists reckon.

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Worrying research on the bat was led by experts at Sun Yat-sen University in Shenzhen, the Yunnan Institute of Endemic Disease Control and the University of Sydney, the Mail Online reports.

The paper, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, reads: "We identified five viral species that are likely to be pathogenic to humans or livestock, including a novel recombinant SARS-like coronavirus that is closely related to both SARS-CoV-2 and 50 SARS-CoV,' the team say in the paper.

"Our study highlights the common occurrence of inter-species transmission and co-infection of bat viruses, as well as their implications for virus emergence."

Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, had his say on the worrying research.

Professor Ball, who was not involved in the study, told The Telegraph: "The main take-home message is that individual bays can harbour a plethora of different virus species, occasionally playing host to them at the same time.

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"Such co-infections, especially with related viruses like coronavirus, give the virus opportunity to swap critical pieces of genetic information, naturally giving rise to new variants."

Researchers collected rectum samples from 149 individual bats from 15 species, in six counties of cities spread across China's Yunnan province.

Yunnan province has already been identified as hotspot for bat species and viruses the animals carry.

Covid-19 first sprung up in China's Wuhan province. The first known case was identified in December 2019 and quickly spread around the world, becoming a pandemic.

A World Health Organization report published in March 2021 suggested Covid-19 was probably passed on to humans by bats or some other animal.

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The researchers involved in the latest study noted a high frequency of multiple viruses infecting a single bat at one time.

Yunnan is also home to pangolins, a sort of scaly anteater, which are used as food in China while also being used in traditional medicine.

A 2021 study in the journal Science of the Total Environment said it is possible the virus jumped from bats to Sunda pangolins and masked palm civits in Yunnan.

According to a 2021 study in the journal Science of the Total Environment, it's possible the virus jumped from bats to Sunda pangolins and masked palm civits in Yunnan.

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