A new coronavirus has been discovered in five bats in Thailand, which is quite similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has led to the global pandemic. Experts from Thailand have said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which leads to COVID19 disease, has 91.5 percent of genetic codes similar to the newly found coronavirus. The new virus is known as RacCs203. Health experts have said that it is unable to infect people, as it might not be able to attach to the ACE2 receptor, which is found on the surface of the human cells. The ACE2 receptor works like a doorway into the human body. Nevertheless, the antibodies circulating in the bloodstream of bats that have been identified with the new virus are able to eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Experts have been speculating that the biological paradox shows that bat based coronaviruses might not be able to infect humans. Scientists have said that such coronaviruses might evolve the ability to infect humans after first passing into an intermediate host such as a pangolin. After passing into a pangolin, it starts mutating and changes its shape, which provides the ACE2 binding ability to it. Well, the findings of the study support the announcement made by the World Health Organization (WHO), which says that the pandemic might have happened naturally. The WHO has said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been released by any laboratory.
Scientists have taken the blood samples of the infected bats from a wildlife sanctuary in Eastern Thailand. They have done the genomic sequencing to see how closely the new virus is linked to other coronaviruses such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This genomic analysis has been done by experts from Chulalongkorn University. The study has found that the closest relative of the new virus is known as RmYN02. The RmYN02 virus is 93.6 percent similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Experts have said that though the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the RacCs203 are genetically similar there are key differences between the two viruses. The spike protein of both viruses is genetically similar but a key region in the spike proteins, which attaches to the ACE2 receptor is quite different in terms of shape.
It proves that the new virus will not be able to bind to the human receptor. Experts have said that the discovery of the new virus will add to more understanding of the family of coronaviruses. Earlier the same kind of coronaviruses have been discovered in China and Japan, however, the existence of this new virus in Thailand shows that there are far more coronaviruses than what has been perceived. Scientists believe that these viruses are prevalent in a 3000-mile range across Southeast Asia.
An Expert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Martin Hibberd has said that the new findings of the study show the broad distribution of the bats and viruses, which might contain the originator of the global pandemic. Scientists have claimed that viruses linked to the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be found in four species of horseshoe bats, which are considered reservoirs of many viruses. The range of these species is spread as far west as India, covers entire Southern China, and reaches as far east as Japan. The southern tip of their range touches the Philippines and Singapore as well. Experts are trying to find out the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to identify its actual origin and prevent outbreaks of the same types of viruses in the future.
Past studies have shown that the RaTG13 is the closes relative of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is harbored by bats. These two viruses are 96 percent similar. Experts have claimed that these similarities show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has evolved naturally in an animal host, most probably a bat before entering into an intermediate species, and then it has jumped to humans. The WHO has sent a team of scientists to China to understand the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The senior scientist of the team has revealed that as per their first findings, the introduction via an intermediary host species might be the potential pathway for the virus.