Two New Terrifying Virus Lineages Discovered In Bats

Researchers in New Zealand have discovered two separate coronavirus lineages in bats, with infection rates in some species surpassing 60%.

Animal reservoirs are thought to be the origin of several modern-day diseases, including COVID-19 and AIDS. Since their immune systems are so effective at fighting off viruses that would put people in the critical care unit if they were to infect humans, bats are a tremendous reservoir for these zoonotic diseases.

Research on bat-borne viruses is essential for developing responses to potential pandemics. Nevertheless, thus far, science has focused chiefly on specific regions or species. Tropical regions, including Southeast Asia and Western Africa, have been the primary focus of bat study, whereas temperate regions, like New Zealand, have been comparatively understudied.

Coronaviruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 that caused the COVID-19 pandemic, belong to one of four major groups: the alphacoronaviruses, betacoronaviruses, gammacoronaviruses, and deltacoronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 is only a member of one family of betacoronaviruses, despite what the nomenclature may lead you to believe.

Although they have not previously generated epidemics of this scale, many alpha coronaviruses may also infect humans.

To better understand the variety of coronaviruses in bats, Tortosa and colleagues conducted coronavirus lineage screens in two native bat species in New Zealand: the long-tailed and the short-tailed bat.

Over 60% of long-tailed bats tested positive for coronavirus, but only a few lesser short-tailed bats did.

Given their high population densities and status as almost 20% of the world’s mammalian species, bats pose a threat as a possible vector for viral transmission.

The findings provide “a crucial step” toward clarifying the coronavirus transmission, evolution, and species-hopping mechanisms. Humans are especially vulnerable to coronaviruses linked to SARS and MERS because of their capacity to cross over from species to species.

Before the horrible epidemic in 2003, many people weren’t interested in learning about coronaviruses. The possibility that the COVID-19 virus escaped from a Wuhan laboratory remains a real possibility.