Japanese scientists from the University of Tokyo have discovered a new strain of coronavirus in the dung of cave-dwelling bats. According to the researchers, the new type is strikingly similar to the strain that causes COVID-19.
A team of scientists found the pathogen in the feces of little horseshoe bats in the wilds of Japan seven years ago. A new investigation has found it is strikingly similar to SARS-CoV-2 – the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The genetic make-up of the new virus is 81.5 percent consistent with SARS-CoV-2 and the experts say it is the first time that a pathogen similar to the one responsible for the current pandemic has been found in Japan.
Coronaviruses that transfer from animals to humans have been responsible for a range of illnesses, including Covid-19, SARS, MERS, and some versions of the common cold. Thankfully, the scientists say the new virus doesn’t infect humans, although further investigation is needed.
“It is thought that only a small number of coronaviruses are dangerous, but it is undeniable that there are species that infect humans in Japan,” explained Associate Professor Shin Murakami. “We will investigate wild animals and promptly investigate the actual situation. We need to figure it out.”
This is not the first time that a coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 has been found. Disease-hunting scientists in China have found coronaviruses that are a 95 percent genetic match with the strain that has caused over 1.2 million deaths around the world, according to official statistics.