Researchers, health experts and scientists across the globe have agreed that Sars-CoV-2, the virus which causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), originated through bats or pangolins. Now, a recent discovery has revealed a form of coronavirus very closely related to the current one in horseshoe bats stored in a freezer in Cambodia, researchers told scientific journal Nature. Another form of the coronavirus, apart from the one in Cambodia, was also found in frozen bat droppings by a team in Japan.
These two forms of the coronaviruses are the first known relatives of the current Sars-CoV-2 which have been discovered outside the epicentre of the pandemic of China. Researchers have suggested that the viruses would have to share 97 per cent of their genome with the current Sars-CoV-2 in order to attach some relevance when it comes to finding out the origin.
The virus prototype in Cambodia was discovered in two Shamel horseshoe bats, also referred to as Rhinolophus Shameli. These species of bats were captured in the country's northern region in 2010. But the genome of this virus in Cambodia has not been sequenced yet.
Veasna Duong, a virologist at Institute Pasteur in Phnom Pen, told Nature that if this virus in Cambodia is closely related or is even an ancestor of the current pandemic virus, it could provide important details about how Sars-CoV-2 passed from bats to humans. Duong had led the search of the old samples in Cambodia.
The virus prototype in Japan was discovered in Rhinolophus cornutus, another type of horseshoe bat, in 2013. This virus, according to a paper published by Nature on November 2, shared 81 per cent of its genome with Sars-CoV-2.
These findings do not give an exact picture of whether the two viruses found in Japan and Cambodia would provide detailed insights into the origin of the current pandemic. But Alice Latinne, an evolutionary biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Vietnam, said the findings have confirmed that viruses closely related to Sars-CoV-2 are common in Rhinolophus bats.
The coronavirus disease has affected nearly 60 million people across the world till now.