Bats that lived in a Cambodian collapse 2010 carried a pathogen that’s “almost equivalent” to the virus that causes COVID-19, scientists have found.
Samples the scientists examined have been saved in a freezer on the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, since December 2010 following a examine by the Pure Historical past Museum in Paris and mandated by UNESCO.
By sequencing samples from 430 bats gathered greater than a decade in the past, they discovered viruses “almost equivalent” to the one which causes COVID-19 in two Rhinolophus shameli bats, in any other case referred to as Shemal’s horseshoe bats, that are present in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
In a report launched this week, which has not but been peer reviewed, the group mentioned the bats shared 92.6% of the identical identification as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The bats had been residing in a collapse northeastern Cambodia’s Steung Treng province, which borders Laos.
The researchers had flagged their discovery in November however had not but sequenced the genome to see simply how shut a relative it was to the virus that causes COVID-19.
This week, they mentioned their findings could possibly be essential in discovering the place the virus originated whereas additional surveillance of bats and different wild animals within the area may imply the world is healthier ready for the following pandemic.
A number of sections of the bats’ genome “are genetically nearer to SARS-CoV-2 than some other intently associated viruses found so far”, the researchers wrote.
Final 12 months, scientists in Yunnan, China, found viruses in a horseshoe bat pattern from 2013 and one other from 2019 that have been intently associated.
Two viruses intently associated to SARS-CoV-2 have been additionally present in February final 12 months in Malayan Sunda pangolins that had been smuggled into southern China.
The Pasteur Institute scientists, funded by the US and French governments, mentioned their discovering “signifies that SARS-CoV-2 associated viruses have a a lot wider geographic distribution than beforehand understood, and sure flow into by way of a number of Rhinolophus species”.
Investigators from the World Well being Organisation (WHO) are presently in Wuhan, China, to find out precisely the place and the way the pandemic began after the virus first emerged there in late 2019.
The Pasteur Institute scientists mentioned Southeast Asia, and never simply China, “might characterize a key space to think about within the ongoing seek for the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and positively in broader coronavirus surveillance efforts”.
They added that the area hosts a excessive range of wildlife and there may be “in depth commerce in, and human contact with, wild hosts of SARS-like coronaviruses”.
The area can be present process “dramatic land-use modifications… that may enhance contacts between bats and people”.
“Continued surveillance of bats and different key wild animals in Southeast Asia is thus essential, not solely to search out the SARS-CoV-2 reservoir, however to even be higher ready for the following pandemic,” they concluded.