New York, April 26 (IANS) Even after the world finds a way to combat the virus responsible for COVID-19, it should prepare for more outbreaks caused by bat-borne coronaviruses, warns a top virologist from China.
“We must find them before they find us,” Shi Zhengli who is also known among her colleagues as “bat woman” for her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves over the past 16 years, was quoted as saying in an article published in the June 2020 issue of Scientific American magazine.
What is worrying is that China is not the only “hot spot” from where such a future outbreak could originate, said the report, adding that other major emerging economies, such as India, Nigeria and Brazil, are also at high risk.
Researchers at EcoHealth Alliance, a New York City-based nonprofit research organisation found that human activities like cutting down forests and intensifying agriculture changing the landscapes of these places with dense populations could be linked to the emergence of new pathogens.
It is futile to blame animals for these outbreaks as according to researchers what is causing the problem is humans coming into contact with these animals.
Shi, who plans to lead a big project to sample viruses in bat caves in the future, is in pains to hear rumours emanating from the Internet and some sections of the media that the SARS-CoV-2 accidentally leaked from her lab in Wuhan.
After identifying the pathogen, now known as SARS-CoV-2, from mysterious samples that landed at her Wuhan Institute of Virology, an affiliate of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, last December, Shi examined her own lab’s past records to check for any mishandling of experimental strains of viruses, especially during disposal.
The results showed that none of the sequences matched those of the viruses her team had sampled from bat caves, said the report in the Scientific American.