New Coronavirus Strain Related To SARS-CoV-2 Found In Bats

Recently, a new report reveals that researchers were able to identify a new coronavirus in bats that is closely related to SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus behind the coronavirus pandemic. While the new virus is not likely to infect humans, the new discovery provides fresh evidence that SARS-CoV-2 evolved naturally and wasn’t made in a lab.

Researchers Discover Close Cousin Of SARS-CoV-2

After researchers failed to identify which animal the new coronavirus came from, rumors started circulating that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the one behind the COVID-19 pandemic, actually emerged not from nature, but from a laboratory in Wuhan, the Chinese province where the outbreak began in the first place.

Previously, researchers surmised that the coronavirus first came from a seafood market in Wuhan, China. However, after failing to pin down which animal exactly first carried the virus, rumors that the virus was actually bioengineered in a lab started surfacing. This theory itself was even given credence by U.S. President Donald Trump, who even claimed to have evidence of it.

“Since the discovery of SARS-CoV-2, there have been a number of unfounded suggestions that the virus has a laboratory origin. In particular, it has been proposed the S1/S2 insertion is highly unusual and perhaps indicative of laboratory manipulation,” Weifeng Shi, senior author and director of the Institute of Pathogen Biology at the university, said.

But scientists recently discovered a close relative of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in bats, providing further evidence that the virus actually evolved naturally.

Taken between May and October 2019 from Yunnan province in China, the samples showed a virus that is even more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than its current closest relative, which is RaTG13 that also came from bats in Yunnan.

“Our paper shows very clearly that these events occur naturally in wildlife. This provides strong evidence against SARS-CoV-2 being a laboratory [escapee]. [Our] study strongly suggests that sampling of more wildlife species will reveal viruses that are even more closely related to SARS-CoV-2, and perhaps even its direct ancestors, which will tell us a great deal about how this virus emerged in humans,” Shi said.

Coronavirus & COVID-19 An artist's representation of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Pixabay