Researchers in China say they have discovered a new batch of coronaviruses in bats that resembles the COVID-19 virus that has spread around the world.
The researchers said they collected samples from small bats that lived in the forests of Yunnan Province between May 2019 and November 2020. The samples consisted of urine, feces and swabs from the mouth.
“We collected a total of 24 new coronavirus genomes from different bat species, including four coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote in the journal Cell.
The researchers say that a strain derived from the Rhinolophus pusillus bat species has a particularly strong resemblance to SARS-CoV-2, although with differences in the thorn protein that viruses use to attach to infected cells.
“Together with the SARS-CoV-2 virus collected from Thailand in June 2020, these results clearly show that viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 continue to circulate in bat populations and in some regions. may occur with relatively high frequency, “they wrote.
The study, published on Thursday, comes amid increased attention to the origins of the COVID-1
Many researchers suspect that the disease originated from a bat, although it may have passed through an intermediate animal before infecting humans.
The United States has also called for an investigation into whether the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, a claim that ranked Beijing.
Observers note that even if a virus has leaked from a laboratory, it does not necessarily mean that the virus was created in one and could simply have been tested there before a scientist left the facility while being inadvertently infected.