The discovery by a team of scientists, including from WCS, along with the recent detection of the closest ancestors of SARS-CoV-2 known to date in cave-dwelling bats in Laos, indicates that SARS-CoV-2-related viruses that cause COVID-19 have a much wider geographic distribution than previously reported. It also further supports the hypothesis that the pandemic originated via spillover of a bat-borne virus.
Said Dr. Lucy Keatts of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Health Program and a co-author of the study: “These findings underscore the importance of increased region-wide investment in bridging capacity for sustainable surveillance of pathogens in wildlife, through initiatives such as WildHealthNet. Southeast Asia hosts a high diversity of wildlife and an extensive wildlife trade that puts humans in direct contact with wild hosts of SARS-like coronaviruses. The region is undergoing dramatic land-use changes such as infrastructure development, urban development, and agricultural expansion that can increase contacts between bats, other wildlife, domestic animals and humans. Continued and expanded surveillance of bats and other key wild animals in Southeast Asia is a crucial component of future pandemic preparedness and prevention.”
The scientific paper detailing the discovery was published in Nature Communications and is available here
Photo: Rhinolophus Shameli, copyright Ben Hayes