… Sars-Cov-2 relatives are found in bats and pangolins

A CORONAVIRUS related to Sars-CoV-2 has yet again emerged in bats and pangolins, this time at a wildlife sanctuary as well as a wildlife checkpoint in Thailand.
According to the new research, published in Nature Communications, some of the key giveaway clues were antibodies that can neutralise the virus that causes Covid-19. The findings dramatically swell the geographical reach where coronaviruses related to Sars-CoV-2 have been found in both types of animals.
These findings also support a host of other studies showing that animals funnelled through the wildlife trade are likely to pass on zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19 when humans are exposed to them.
In February 2020, it was reported that a United States research team had homed in on critically endangered pangolins from a Chinese wildlife sanctuary as a possible intermediate reservoir of Sars-CoV-2.
Bioinformatics researcher Matthew Wong had found that the distinctive RBD docking mechanism in Sars-CoV-2 was “identical to that of a pangolin coronavirus”, his Baylor College laboratory supervisor, Professor Joseph Petrosino, said.
A pangolin virus and bat virus may have found themselves in the same animal, Petrosino said, leading to what he described as a “devastating recombination event, creating the pandemic strain. This may have happened in the wild, or where these animals were brought together in unnaturally close proximity.”
Pangolins are among the world’s most trafficked and endangered mammals.
Now, in this latest study, surveillance investigations led by Asian research institutions have identified “a close relative to Sars-CoV-2 in five acuminate horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus acuminatus) from an artificial cave in a wildlife sanctuary located in Eastern Thailand”.
Named RacCS203, this virus “exhibits 91,5% genome similarity to Sars-CoV-2” and is “closely related” to a previous discovery of a virus from bats in China, described as RmYN02.
“The detection of SARS CoV-2 neutralising antibodies in bats of the same colony and in a pangolin at a wildlife checkpoint in southern Thailand also provides evidence for the circulation of Sars-CoV-2-related coronaviruses in Southeast Asia,” the paper explains.
The research goes so far as to predict that “Sars-CoV-2-related coronaviruses may be present in bats across many nations and regions in Asia” — although the authors cautioned that their “sample size and area (are) limited”. — DM/OBP.