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Research finds novel coronavirus, related to SARS-Cov-2 that causes Covid-19, in horseshoe bats in UK

 By hindustantimes.com | Written by Srivatsan K C | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2021 09:21 PM IST

The virus could mutate if a Covid-19 infected human passes it to an infected bat, the researchers said. They also asked anyone who comes into contact with bats or their droppings to wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

 

A novel coronavirus, related to SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19 in humans, has been detected in horseshoe bats in the United Kingdom, a new collaborative research from the University of East Anglia, Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Public Health England (PHE) showed. The researchers, however, said that there is no evidence that the virus has been transmitted to humans, or that it could in future, unless it mutates.

 

The new virus falls within the subgroup of coronaviruses called sarbecoviruses which contains both SARS-CoV-2, that causes Covid-19, and SARS-CoV, which was responsible for the 2003 SARS outbreak.

 

Researchers from the University of East Anglia collected faecal samples from more than 50 lesser horseshoe bats from places like Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wales. The samples were then sent to the Public Health England for viral analysis, the university’s website said.

 

The genome sequencing of the bat samples has detected the presence of novel coronavirus in one of the samples. It has been named ‘RhGB01’ by the team. The sarbecovirus, SARS-related coronavirus, has been found for the first time in a lesser horseshoe bat and it is also the first to be discovered in the United Kingdom.

 

Also, the researchers said that the bats would have “almost certainly” harboured the virus for a very long time and this is the first time that this has been tested and so has been found now. Unless the virus mutates, they are unlikely to pose a direct risk to humans, they added.

 

The virus could mutate if a Covid-19 infected human passes it to an infected bat, the researchers said. They also asked anyone who comes into contact with bats or their droppings to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

“Horseshoe bats are found across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia and the bats we tested lie at the western extreme of their range,” said professor Diana Bell of the University of East Anglia. “Our research extends both the geographic and species ranges of these types of viruses and suggests their more widespread presence across more than 90 species of horseshoe bats,” she added.

 

“Our findings highlight the need for robust genotype testing for these types of viruses in bat populations around the world. And it raises an important question about what other animals carry these types of viruses,” she further said.

 

“Our findings highlight that the natural distribution of sarbecoviruses and opportunities for recombination through intermediate host co-infection have been underestimated,” said Prof Andrew Cunningham from the Zoological Society of London.

 

Ensuring that the UK virus is not a threat to humans, Cunningham said, “But the problem is that any bat harbouring a SARS-like coronavirus can act as a melting pot for virus mutation.”

 

“Preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to bats, and hence reducing opportunities for virus mutation, is critical with the current global mass vaccination campaign against this virus,” Prof Cunningham further said.

 

The closest relative to the virus was found to be one discovered in a Blasius’ bat from Bulgaria in 2008, further analysis of the virus in comparison with others found in horseshoe bat species in China, southeast Asia and Europe showed.

 

(Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/research-finds-novel-coronavirus-related-to-sars-cov-2-in-horseshoe-bats-in-uk-101626795475866.html)