A small team of scientists has decided to search for caves to determine the inner-workings of coronavirus directly from the source. They are analyzing the bats and the environment they are living in. Before entering the unknown territory, the researchers cover every inch of their skin since any contact with a bat’s urine may expose them to another series of deadly viruses.
The scientists wait until the dusk arrives, and the bats leave their nests trying to find food. This is the moment when scientists put them to sleep using an anesthetic and extract blood from their veins, as well as fecal swabs and droppings.
The new coronavirus pandemic
The leading researcher, Peter Daszak, is a specialist in preventing pandemics. He has been working in this position for the past ten years, during which he visited over 20 countries to conduct research that would prevent the humanity from deadly pathogens. He declared that during his studies, he collected more than 15000 bat samples with the help of which he identified more than 500 new coronaviruses. One of these findings was discovered in 2013 and could be the ancestor of COVID-19.
Before the apparition of SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, there was not much research into the coronaviruses. Until then, the researchers managed to discover only two types of coronaviruses, both of them dating back from 1960. In 2009, the Predict partnership was founded by USAID, under the careful examination of many institutions that aimed to track the developments of epidemics.
The COVID-19 origins
The primary focus of this initiative was to determine the zoonotic diseases, which include coronaviruses before they manage to reach humans. During its ten years of research, Predict was awarded about $200 million to conduct its investigations. The organization managed to identify many coronaviruses, one of which is represented by the deadly COVID-19.
Daszak’s organization targets the Southwest part of China with the Yunnan province. At first, this region was taken into consideration by the scientists to determine the origins of SARS-CoV what it first appeared. Then, the researchers’ team realized that the area is hiding an impressive amount of deadly new coronaviruses that have not yet been discovered.
The Southwest part of Asia is widely known for its humans that get in contact with the wildlife for providing their nourishment. The researchers had analyzed blood samples from several inhabitants in the Yunnan province back in 2015. 3% of the subjects have already developed antibodies for viruses that are usually found in bats, which demonstrates that the individuals were already exposed to the viruses. Probably, when they contacted these pathogens, the humans damaged only a small number of cells.
The coronaviruses need to be associated with another animal host such as a cat, a pangolin, or a camel that is in close relationship with humans. The primary origins of coronaviruses, if found in bats, which are living in huge colonies that influence the spreading of the viruses in their community at an alarming rate.
When the COVID-19 has first made its cases in humans, the virologists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology compared it to find similarities with the 500 new coronaviruses discovered by EcoHealth Alliance. They managed to find a 96.2% similarity with one of the samples taken from a horseshoe bat in 2013. The small difference in the analogy might be caused by the fact that the virus was probably transmitted with the help of an animal host.
Knowing the origins of the deadly virus is a crucial piece of information that will hopefully help researchers ton timely detect any possible epidemic. By understanding how the virus can mutate to endanger humans is essential to eliminate the risk of any other pandemics.