A team of American researchers has now identified a new coronavirus variant in Russian bats, capable of infecting people. Scientists have now voiced concern that the virus called Khosta-2 may be completely resistant to all current coronavirus vaccinations available on the market.
According to research published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the virus is classified as a sarbecovirus, a member of the coronavirus family. It attaches to the same protein, ACE2, that coronavirus uses to penetrate human cells.
A team of scientists led by Michael Letko, discovered a group of coronaviruses similar to SARS-COV-2, which were initially discovered in bats in Russia in 2020. According to scientists, while Khosta-1, another virus found in Russian bats, cannot readily enter human cells, Khosta-2 could.
When scientists combined serum from people vaccinated against Covid-19 with Khosta-2, the antibodies in the serum were unable to neutralise the virus. The same thing happened when the team combined the Khosta-2 with the serum from people who had recently recovered from Omicron infection.
Michael Letko, the lead scientist, told TIME that they don't want to scare anybody and said that this is a vaccine-restraint virus. He further added that it is concerning that viruses circulate in nature with such properties that they can bind to human receptors.
According to the researchers from Washington State University, the study's findings demonstrate that sarbecoviruses in wildlife outside of Asia threaten global health. However, this virus does not have the genes that can cause severe disease in people like the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 but can eventually change if it gets mixed with genes of SARS-CoV-2.
"We need to develop more protective vaccines to prevent outbreaks of zoonotic coronaviruses," said Dr Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist, sharing the report on Twitter.
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First Published: Mon, September 26 2022. 23:20 IST