Coronavirus R rate drops to below 1 in England
Dr Shu Zhengli, from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China, suggested other coronaviruses found in bats and animals could mutate to spread to humans. Sars-Cov-2, the viral strain which causes COVID-19, was first reported in Wuhan last December, after spreading in the city’s wet market. To date, COVID-19 has infected 65,771,488 people and killed 1,516,035 around the world.
Dr Zhengli said coronaviruses similar to COVID-19 are likely to be circulating in animals spotted throughout south Asian counties.
Issuing a warning for potential future pandemics, the virologist spoke of more coronaviruses in a webinar arranged by French medical and veterinary academies.
She said: “We should not only search for them in China, but also in south Asian countries.”
Despite her warnings, Dr Zhengli’s team has failed to detect the virus in Wuhan animals or wildlife.
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Coronavirus news: A Wuhan virologist has sounded the alarm over potential future coronaviruses
Coronavirus news: Dr Shi Zhengli has said other strains of coronavirus could make the leap from animals to humans
While Sars-Cov-2 is widely believed to have developed in Wuhan bats, many scientists including Dr Zhengli believe the virus passed from bats to humans through an intermediate animal.
Pangolin’s are widely suggested to be the missing “staging point” between COVID-19’s spread from bats to humans.
The animal’s scales are a staple of traditional Chinese medicines and are considered a delicacy, leading to China raising Pangolin’s protection status to the highest level in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nature magazine, a science journal, citied Steve Galster, founder of animal and human trafficking watchdog Freeland, who said Pangolin smuggling could give rise to future coronaviruses.
Coronavirus news: Dr Zhengli also said an intermediary helped COVID-19 leap from bats to humans, and suggested it could have been pangolins
Coronavirus news: Pangolins are protected by Chinese law but are often used by smugglers in medicines
Dr Zhengli did not specifiy that Pangolins were the intermediary, but stressed Sars-CoV-2 could have been in the species “for a very long time”.
Professor Edward Holmes, virologist at the University of Sydney, concurred with the Wuhan scientist over the intermediary concerns.
Prof Holmes said: “It is perfectly possible that the initial cross-species transmission event did not happen in or around Wuhan itself.
“It may not even have happened in Hubei province, although there are obviously a huge number of possible animals to test to resolve this.”
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Dr Zhengli was the virologist who confirmed that COVID-19 was 96 percent identical to viruses spotted in horseshoe bats.
Earlier this year the Wuhan scientist was rumoured to have defected to the west after the Chinese government covered-up her findings.
While Dr Zhengli denied she defected, she has claimed she was stopped from reporting her findings in the early stages of the pandemic.
China has reported a total of 4,746 deaths and 93,339 cases from the virus, although observers remain sceptical of the country’s figures.
Coronavirus news: China has reported a total of 4,746 deaths and 93,339 cases
Coronavirus news: Dr Zhengli claimed China had covered up her findings on the virus early into the pandemic
Other animals have been reported to carry coronaviruses, with experts warning a future crossover virus is likely.
Minks in Denmark and the US have been found to carry COVID-19, with the world’s largest manufacture of mink products in Denmark forced to slaughter two-thirds of its population after an outbreak of the virus.
In June, rats being sent to Southeast Asian markets were found to carry multiple strains of coronaviruses according to a study from US and Vietnamese researchers.
Sarah Olson of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which led the study, said: “While these aren’t dangerous viruses they offer information on how viruses can be amplified under these conditions.”