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Bats Are Not Immune To The New COVID-19 Strains, Study

The next strain of coronavirus could be more dangerous than the dominant Omicron strain, researchers warn. A study of coronavirus samples collected from an immunosuppressed individual over the past six months revealed that the virus evolved to become more pathogenic, thus suggesting that a new variant could be more dangerous than the current variant [1].

On Wednesday, the Union Health Ministry reported 166 new Coronavirus infections in India, with 4,255 active cases. The total number of Coronavirus cases stands at 4,46,73,949 [2].

Meanwhile, a new study suggests that bats may not be protected from the new strains of COVID-19 [3]. Read more on Bats Are Not Immune To The New COVID-19 Strains.

Here are the important findings from the study:

In a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Royal Society Open Science, bats remain at risk of contracting COVID-19 from humans.

Point 1: Several years have passed since scientists first suspected that COVID-19 made its way from bats to humans, and since that time, the virus has evolved into numerous variants. Some scientists believed that the bats that may have served as COVID-19's original incubator are now immune to its effects because it has changed so much [4].

Point 2: According to this study, bats have not evolved resistance to COVID-19, and they can be infected in the same manner as humans by binding to specific receptors on SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19) - and the possibility of transmission across a variety of other species remains very real.

Point 3: According to the researchers, they expected some adaptive evolution as the virus became more accustomed to humans and less accustomed to bats, but they did not see much change in the virus' behaviour.

Point 4: Considering that the binding site has not evolved much over the years, there isn't much stopping it from being transmitted from humans to bats. This suggests that there would be a widespread cross-species transmission, and the literature demonstrates that there is evidence for this.

Point 5: A computer model of the binding receptors in these bats was run against all current variants of concern (VOC) in order to determine whether any of these newer variants are no longer capable of infected bats. A number of these strains included the original strain of COVID-19, Alpha, Beta, and Delta, as well as BA.1, BA.2 and BA.4/BA.5 [5].

Point 6: As reinfecting bats with human viral strains would be dangerous, the computer-based simulations offered a much safer alternative.

Point 7: In spite of the fact that the study found that bats were still able to contract the virus, there were differences in the way the different variants approached the body. In other words, researchers found that all of the VOCs bind better to a specific type of ACE2 receptor called hACE2, as opposed to bACE2, whereas the original virus strain did not show any difference in its ability to target these receptors.

Why the concern over bats and COVID?

Point 8: When humans are still dealing with COVID-19's ravages in our communities, worrying about bats becoming infected with new strains of the virus may seem irrelevant, but understanding a virus's potential for cross-species transmission is an important part of battling it, the researchers added [6][7].

On A Final Note...

In addition to providing evidence that recent human SARS-CoV-2 variants may re-infect bats, these findings also suggest that bat species diversity may be profoundly influential on SARS-CoV-2 evolution in the future.

Story first published: Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 14:43 [IST]
Read more about: covid bats new strain
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