New Delhi: A new deadly bat virus with potential to spillover to humans have been discovered in Thailand by a controversial research group previously linked to experiments in Wuhan, media reports said.
Dr Peter Daszak, head of the New York based non-profit EcoHealth Alliance, reported the discovery of a never-before-seen virus with ‘almost’ as much potential to infect humans as Covid, the Daily Mail reported.
EcoHealth has been linked with controversial experiments in Wuhan which some fear started the pandemic.
“We found a lot of SARS-related coronaviruses, but one in particular we found was quite common in bats where people were commonly exposed,” Daszak, a zoologist, said while describing his findings in bats at an event held by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on future pandemic research preparedness.
He said the new virus, which is yet to be named, was found in a Thai cave where local farmers source bat faeces to fertilise their fields.
Further, the newly discovered virus is a close relative of Covid-19 and has “almost” the same potential of infecting humans as coronavirus does, he was quoted as saying.
“We consider this to be a potential zoonotic pathogen. Here we have a virus in bats, right now in a cave used by people highly exposed to bat faeces,” Daszak said.
“And this virus is shed in bat faeces, so there is a real potential for emergence.”
The findings come as the WHO reported a surge in coronavirus globally, with hospitalisations jumping 42 per cent across 50 countries. The fresh surge in cases, majorly driven by the highly transmissible JN.1 variant, has also brought in mask mandates in several US states.
JN.1, classified as a variant of interest (VOI) by the WHO is becoming the dominant variant globally, causing spikes in infections, hospitalisations as well as deaths in some countries. JN.1 is similar to its parent BA.2.86, but has an additional mutation (L455S) in the spike protein, which has immune-evasion properties.
According to the CDC, JN.1’s continued growth suggests that the variant is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other circulating variants. However, it added that “it is too early to know whether or to what extent JN.1 will cause an increase in infections or hospitalisations”.
As per the CDC, existing vaccines, tests, and treatments work against JN.1.