History at a glance

  • Researchers are studying the coronavirus in animals to gain insight into what is circulating in animals.

  • A study found that bat coronaviruses can enter human cells.

  • In laboratory tests, it also developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Theodore Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization May “We are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus,” he said, due to the reduction in testing and sequencing. Similarly, because coronaviruses are found in other mammals, it is important to know what is circulating among animal populations. A team of researchers at Washington State University and Tulane University School of Medicine aims to do just that.

in a paper published in PLoS PathogensThey detailed two cases of coronaviruses found in horseshoe bats in Russia. The strains of the virus are different from the original 2003 SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for the current pandemic.

However, the researchers believe that studying the coronavirus in wild animals is important to understand the evolution of the virus and the possibility of transmission to humans.

They sequenced bat coronaviruses and tested them on human cells in the lab. Bat viruses had a receptor-binding domain, a part of the virus that could bind to molecules on the cell membrane that helped them enter human cells.

The team also tested the virus against SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies and antibodies from individuals vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. One of the two bat coronaviruses was resistant to both monoclonal antibodies and vaccine-induced antibodies. They got similar results when they tested antibodies from a person who had recovered from an Omicron variant infection.

“We don’t want to scare anybody and say this is a completely vaccine-resistant virus,” said Michael Leko, an assistant professor at Washington State University’s Paul Allen School of Public Health who led the study. TIME. But it is about the presence of viruses circulating in nature with these properties – they can interact with human receptors and are not very neutral in current vaccine responses.

One of the main concerns is whether these bat coronaviruses will combine with SARS-CoV-2 and lead to new variants. If these new variants inherit immune-compromising traits, that could be a problem for us.

While not a sign of alarm, such studies will be important to know what types of coronaviruses are circulating in the wild and how they relate to what is circulating in humans. Leko says, “These viruses are really ubiquitous, and they’re going to continue to be a human issue in general.”

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