Covid-19: Scientists expect the coronavirus to be found in bats in Japan, China and Thailand
Scientists say the coronavirus linked to Sars-CoV-2 may be circulating in bats that inhabit many parts of Asia.
They have found a virus similar to the virus that causes Covid-19 in bats at a wildlife reserve in eastern Thailand.
They predict that a similar coronavirus may exist in bats in many other Asian countries and regions.
The findings expand the area where the virus was found to a distance of 4,800 km. This then provides clues as to how the Covid-19 outbreak started.
The researchers said that while sampling was limited, they believed that the coronavirus “with a high degree of genetic association with Sars-CoV-2 is widely available in bats in many countries and regions in Asia”.
The region includes Japan, China and Thailand, the researchers said in a report published in Nature Communications .
Past studies have found that Sars-Cov-2 appeared in animals, most likely bats, before spreading to humans.
The origin of the virus is unknown and is currently being investigated by a team commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the latest study, a team led by Lin-Fa Wang of the University of Singapore detected a close relative of the Sars-Cov-2 virus in horseshoe bats living in artificial caves in a wildlife sanctuary in Thailand.
The virus, called RacCS203, is very similar to the genetic code Sars-CoV-2 (with a genome similarity of 91.5%).
This virus is also closely related to another coronavirus – called RmYN02 – found in bats in Yunnan, China (with 93.6% similarity to the Sars-CoV-2 genome).
“We need to do a lot more surveillance on animals,” said Professor Wang.
“To find its true origins, the task of surveillance must go beyond China’s borders.”