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Relatives of SARS-CoV-2 may pose a health threat for years to come

However, the current coronavirus pandemic, caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2, may have close relatives that have not yet been discovered, hinting that the current pandemic may not be the last one to wreak havoc around the world, a new study has found.


A team of researchers at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Transplantation, KU Leuven, Rega Institute, Leuven, Belgium, and the Department of Biological Sciences, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China, has revealed that the current coronavirus strain called SARS-CoV-2, has diverged genetically from other known viruses that circulated in bats about 40 to 70 years ago.

The scientists have found that the lineage that gave rise to the novel coronavirus has been in bats for decades, and likely includes other viruses that can jump to humans and cause infection. The study shows that stopping the lineage may help prevent future pandemics, which can affect millions of people.

The current pandemic has now spread to 188 countries and territories, infection more than 16.95 million, and has killed at least 665,000 people.


The Study results

To arrive at the study findings, the researchers utilized three bioinformatic approaches to detect and remove the recombinant regions within the genome of SARS-CoV-2. They also reconstructed phylogenetic histories for non-recombinant regions and compared them to each other. From there, the team reconstructed the evolutionary events in the past tied to the coronaviruses.

The study sheds light on how the lineage of viruses, where SARS-CoV-2 emerged from, diverged from other bat viruses many decades ago. Also, the team found that even though SARS-CoV-2 is genetically akin to the RaTG13 coronavirus which was obtained from a Rhinolophus affinis horseshoe bat in 2013 in China, it had actually diverged from RaTG13 in 1969.Further, the team unveiled that one of the older characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 that is similar to its relatives is the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which is found on the spike protein. This domain makes it possible for the virus to find and bind to receptors on the human cells. The researchers believe that the train the novel coronavirus shares with its relatives makes it possible for other coronaviruses to cause a similar outbreak or pandemic in the future.


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Source: News Medical lifesciences

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