A group of Chinese researchers has found 24 bats in the Yunnan Province that could be related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Despite the discovery of animal coronaviruses related to SARS-CoV-2, the evolutionary origins of this virus are elusive,” the researchers said in a paper published this month by the scientific magazine Cell.
“We describe a meta-transcriptomic study of 411 bat samples collected from a small geographical region in Yunnan province, China, between May 2019 and November 2020. We identified 24 full-length coronavirus genomes, including four novel SARS-CoV-2 related and three SARS-CoV related viruses.”
SARS-CoV-2 is a close relative to COVID-19, the study said.
The 15 researchers involved turned the study in on March 12 and revised it on May 11. The paper was finally accepted by the publisher on June 3, according to Cell Publications.
Even though there are similarities in the genetic makeup of the viruses discovered in the bats, the study said none of the samples were “highly similar” in the “spike gene” to COVID-19.
The findings, however, bring up more questions about the COVID-19 origin and how it became such a devastating pandemic.
Emails to and from Dr. Anthony Fauci released last week showed the United States provided some funding for research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology through a third-party organization, but Fauci told Congress earlier this year that the estimated $600,000 in grants to the lab were not to fund “gain of function” research that makes viruses more potent so scientists can develop effective vaccines and treatments.
Many speculated early on that the virus came from animals at a Wuhan “wet market."
A Reuters report earlier this year, however, said that several workers at the Wuhan lab had to be hospitalized with COVID-like symptoms before the first cases of the pandemic were reported, giving some more credence to the lab leak theory.
President Joe Biden ended an investigation into the lab leak theory that was started under President Donald Trump, but recently called for his own inquiry into the origin, The BBC reported.
Since it began, the virus has infected more than 174 million people and killed almost 4 million throughout the world with more than 600,000 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.
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