A team of international scientists has isolated a very close relative of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus from horseshoe bats in China, confirming them as the origin of the virus responsible for the 2002-03 pandemic.
The SARS-CoV pandemic killed 774 people of the 8,094 people infected, a fatality ratio of almost 10 percent. With cases diagnosed across the world, the pandemic had an impact on international travel and trade.
The research team, led by Shi Zhengli, a professor at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has just had its breakthrough results published in Nature.
While researchers globally have previously used genetic sequencing to demonstrate that bats are the natural reservoirs of SARS-like CoVs, this is the first time that live virus has been successfully isolated from bats to definitively confirm them as the origin of the virus.
The results will help governments design more effective prevention strategies for SARS and similar epidemics.
Horseshoe bats are found around the world, including Australia. Their role in SARS-CoV transmission highlights the importance of protecting the bat’s natural environment so they are not forced into highly populated urban areas in search of food.
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science.