While the World Health Organization (WHO) continues its mission to Wuhan, China, investigating the origin and early transmission of SARS-CoV-2, a new study led by scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, and Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, shows that SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses (SC2r-CoVs) are circulating in animals as far away as Thailand. The study, published online on February 9, 2021 in Nature Communications, reported that high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the virus were present in both bats and pangolins found in the Southeast Asian country. The study further indicates that more SC2r-CoVs are likely to be discovered in the region. Southeast Asia with its large and diverse bat populations may be a more likely hotspot for such viruses. "This is an important discovery in the search for the origin of SARS-CoV-2, which was made possible by rapid application of cutting-edge technology through transparent international collaboration," said Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, PhD, from the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok Thailand. The open-access Nature Communications article is titled “Evidence for SARS-CoV-2 Related Coronaviruses Circulating in Bats and Pangolins in Southeast Asia.” In the study, the team examined Rhinolophus bats in a Thai cave. SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies were detected in bats of the same colony and in a pangolin at a wildlife checkpoint in Southern Thailand. "Our study extended the geographic distribution of genetically diverse SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses from Japan and China to Thailand over a 4,800-km range. Cross-border surveillance is urgently needed to find the immediate progenitor virus of SARS-CoV-2," said Dr.
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