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New Coronavirus Turns Out to Be Decades Old in Bats
Published on: 2020-07-31
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The viral lineage leading to the novel coronavirus SARS CoV 2 might have been circulating unnoticed in bats for decadesThe viral lineage leading to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 might have been circulating unnoticed in bats for decades

Coronaviruses capable of infecting humans may have been circulating undetected in bats for decades.

Research suggests one of the closest known ancestors of the virus that causes Covid-19 emerged in bats between 40 and 70 years ago.

It has been poised for human crossover for some time, the scientists said.

And this casts further doubt on conspiracy theories that the virus causing Covid-19 was bioengineered or escaped from a laboratory, they added.

Prof David Robertson, of the University of Glasgow, worked on the study, published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

He said that while Sars-CoV-2 (the pandemic coronavirus) is genetically very close to the nearest known bat viruses, they are separated in time by several decades.

"If these viruses have been around for decades that means that they've had lots of opportunity to find new host species, including humans," said Prof Robertson.

The researchers compared the genetic make-up of Sars-CoV-2 with that of a close relative in bats, a virus known as RaTG13, and other related bat viruses.

They dated the time the two shared a common ancestor, and found they went along their own evolutionary pathways several decades ago.

Prof Mark Pagel of the University of Reading, who was not part of the study, said the work suggests that coronaviruses capable of infecting humans have been present in bats for perhaps 40 to 70 years but have gone undetected.

Bats are found across the world and can migrate long distances
The viruses may have gone on to infect other wildlife, particularly those coming into close contact with each other through illegal wildlife trade. But to date, all the evidence points to bats being the important reservoir.

Previous research has suggested that pangolins might have played a role in the evolution of Sars-CoV-2, but the latest study suggests this is not the case.

Instead, pangolins may have picked up the virus more recently through contact with other wild animals through wildlife trafficking into China.

新冠病毒谱系或已在蝙蝠中悄然传播数十年

28日,学术期刊《自然-微生物学》发表的一份最新研究显示,导致新冠肺炎的新型冠状病毒SARS-CoV-2是由40至70年前与之最接近的蝙蝠病毒演化而来。

该研究团队人员来自美国宾夕法尼亚州立大学、英国爱丁堡大学和中国香港大学等机构,他们根据现有的sarbecovirus基因组数据分析了SARS-CoV-2的演化历史。SARS-CoV和SARS-CoV-2均属于sarbecovirus亚属。

研究人员发现,名为RaTG13的蝙蝠病毒基因序列和新冠病毒SARS-CoV-2基因序列高度相似,“基因组序列同一性约为96%”。两者有共同的祖先,但在几十年前出现了不同的进化路径,研究人员估计SARS-CoV-2分别在1948年、1969年和1982年从蝙蝠病毒sarbecovirus中分化出来。

该研究的作者表示,基因序列的相似性表明“目前新冠肺炎疫情的暴发可能是由蝙蝠引起的”。这一发现意味着“产生SARS-CoV-2的病毒谱系可能已经在蝙蝠中悄无声息地传播了几十年”。

该研究还为拆穿病毒阴谋论(如病毒是人为制造、病毒从实验室泄漏等说法)提供了更多证据。

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