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Laotian Bats Discovered To Have Coronaviruses, Adept In Infecting Human Cell

When COVID-19 happened, the whole world was thrown into chaos. Millions of people got hospitalized, lost jobs that they could count on for their livelihood, and died. According to WHO, there have been 4,879,235 deaths as of October 15, 2021, due to COVID-19.

WHO was informed of cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause in Wuhan, a city in China. The Chinese authorities have identified the cause as a novel coronavirus and were temporarily called “2019-nCoV”. WHO later then issued the official names COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 on February 11, 2020.

bat virus

At least horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus pusillus, one of three species of horseshoe bat observed in the study. (Photo: New York Times)

Latch in Human Cell

Scientists traveled to Northern Laos to catch bats that they thought might harbor the close cousins of the pathogens, and in the middle of the night, they used mist nets to catch the bats and collected samples of saliva, feces, and urine from the nearby caves and released them right after.

In a high-security biosafety lab, the scientist conducted the study and discovered that the samples that were taken from the bats contain coronaviruses known as BSL-3.

There were three Laos coronaviruses that were found that carried a molecular hook on their surface that is similar to the causes of COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2. Both of their hooks are similar because they allowed them to latch in human cells.

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bat virus

A Chinese horseshoe bat in flight. There are more than 1,200 species of bat, making up about a quarter of all mammalian species. (Photo: Merlin D. Tuttle/Science Source/ New York Times)

COVID’s Origin

Virus experts around the world were all talking about the said discovery. They suspected that these viruses like SARS-CoV2 might have infected people unknown to them and falls into mild and limited outbreaks. They worry that the pathogen would give rise to another COVID-19-like pandemic.

There have been many debates about the origin of COVID-19, and according to experts, this study has significant implications for the charged debate over the origin of the virus. At first, it was believed that the SARS-CoV-2 ability to infect human cells could not be evolved through the spillover of animals, but the discovery suggests otherwise.

According to New York Times, the bat viruses discovered in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and China would help researchers prepare for future pandemics as the viruses’ family trees contain hints about potentially dangerous strains. Researchers would be able to know where and which animal the scientist should look at to find them.

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