Scientists in Japan have tested frozen animal samples and found a virus related to SARS-CoV-2. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Scientists in Cambodia and Japan have found coronaviruses in bats related to SARS-CoV-2, as countries around the world experience a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
The virus in Cambodia was discovered in two Shamel's horseshoe bats captured in northern Cambodia in 2010. The virus' genome has not been sequenced completely, and its impact on knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 is yet to be determined, the science journal Nature reported.
The novel coronavirus that began to infect people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December previously had been linked to bats. Following the first outbreaks in December and January in China, a lab in Wuhan was linked to the virus, but Chinese authorities have denied the connection.
Veasna Duong, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, said studies into the virus could shed light on COVID-19.
"This is what we were looking for, and we found it," Duong said. "It was exciting and surprising at the same time."
The virus would have to share more than 97% of its genome with the novel coronavirus to provide insights into the pandemic. Etienne Simon-Loriere, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said the Cambodian virus could help map the family of coronaviruses.
Japanese horseshoe bats captured and frozen since 2013 have also tested positive for a virus that shares 81% of its genome with SARS-CoV-2, according to a recent paper.
"I did not expect to find a relative of SARS-CoV-2," said Shin Murakami at the University of Tokyo.
Murakami was a member of the team that retested the frozen animal samples. The group has said the virus does not bind to the receptor the novel coronavirus uses to enter human cells, making it less infectious.
The COVID-19 "winter wave" is stalking countries around the world.
In China, where authorities previously claimed "victory" over the pandemic, Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the country should not let down its guard, China Central Television reported Tuesday.
China reported a handful of new COVID-19 cases in Shanghai and Tianjin last week and over the weekend, according to state media.