British magazine Nature News and Review, scientists have found two viruses similar to the novel coronavirus in frozen bats and bat feces stored in laboratories in Cambodia and Japan.
The scientific community has never stopped looking for the source of the novel coronavirus as it continues to spread globally. Similar to the coronavirus that caused a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic at the beginning of this century, the novel coronavirus may also originate from bats of the genus Chrysanthemum, but there is also evidence that the novel coronavirus may be boarding in another animal before infecting humans.
Finding other coronaviruses similar to COVID-19 helps solve the mystery and helps us understand how COVID-19 has completed the jump from bats to humans, triggering the current epidemic, the report said. Some virologists told reporters from Nature News and Review that they have found such a coronavirus in Cambodia.
“We were looking for this and then we found it,” said Weisner Dong, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, said. It’s exciting and unexpected.” According to the introduction, the research is still in progress, and the results of the research have not yet been published in scientific journals.
Wesner East’s team found a coronavirus in two flat-headed chrysanthemum bats captured in 2010 and frozen. To confirm the relationship between the virus and the novel coronavirus, researchers focused on a fragment of the viral genome.
The Wesner East team found that this fragment of the new virus is similar not only to the coronavirus, but also to the RaTG13 virus. RaTG13 is the coronavirus with the highest known affinity to COVID-19, with a similarity of 96%, and the two are likely to have diverged from a common ancestor 40 to 70 years ago.Aaron Owen, an infectious disease scientist at Zhejiang University, told Nature News and Review that if the similarity between the new virus found by the Cambodian team and the novel coronavirus reaches more than 97%, the new virus can replace RaTG13 as the closest known close relative of the novel coronavirus; if the similarity reaches more than 99%. Then the new virus is likely to be the direct ancestor of COVID-19.
On the other hand, the newly discovered virus may not be as close to the COVID-19 as RaTG13. For example, scientists recently found a coronavirus in frozen bat feces in Japanese laboratories, which is similar to the genome of about 81%. Cell culture experiments show that the virus, called Rc-o319, cannot invade human cells using the same receptors as COVID-19.
The report pointed out that whether the virus found by scientists in Cambodia can infect human cells is still a mystery to be solved. But regardless of the results of the study, the discovery of a new coronavirus in bats of the genus Chrysanthemum can provide clues to us to study the process of the novel coronavirus jumping to the human body, and also help us predict future epidemics.