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'It remained unnoticed for decades': scientists have found out how SARS-CoV-2 originated and why it infects people

A few months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are still figuring out how the new coronavirus spread from animals to humans. According to a study published in the journal Nature Microbiology, a group of scientists may have found the answer to a question that many have been asking for months. Fox News.

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A team of scientists from the United States, China, and Europe have compared the mutation patterns of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) with other viruses and created a history of the evolution of related viruses. They found that the lineage responsible for the production of the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic is present in bats.

“Analyzes indicate that bats are the main reservoir of the SARS-CoV-2 lineage. While it is possible that pangolins or other hitherto undiscovered species may have acted as intermediary carriers to facilitate transmission of the virus to humans, current evidence is consistent with the fact that the virus evolved in bats. This has led to the emergence of bat sarbecoviruses that can replicate in the upper respiratory tract of both humans and pangolins, ”the report said.

The research team reported that the new coronavirus originated from other bat viruses 40-70 years ago.

“The lineage that gave rise to SARS-CoV-2 has gone unnoticed in bats for decades,” the authors write.

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The researchers said SARS-CoV-2 is genetically similar (about 96%) to the RaTG13 coronavirus found in a 2013 sample of the horseshoe bat Rhinolophus affinis in Yunnan, China. Also, the new coronavirus shares a common trait with older members of its lineage regarding the receptor binding domain (RBD) in its spike protein, which allows it to bind to human receptor cells.

"Its receptor-binding motif appears to be an inherited trait in common with bat viruses, rather than recently acquired," the study said.

“This means there are other viruses circulating among horseshoe bats in China that can infect humans,” said study co-author David Robertson, professor of computer virology at the MRC Viral Research Center at the University of Glasgow.

The authors stated that other groups of researchers were wrong in suggesting that the evolutionary changes that occurred in pangolins allowed the new coronavirus to be transmitted to humans. According to Robertson, the SARS-CoV-2 RBD sequence has so far been found in only a few pangolin viruses.

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The authors note that systems for monitoring human diseases in real time and better sampling in bats are needed to detect new infectious microorganisms and prevent future pandemics.

“The key to successful surveillance,” Robertson said, “is knowing which viruses to look for and prioritizing those that can easily infect people. We need to be better prepared for a second SARS virus. ”

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