Covid-like Virus (Bat Virus): Researchers, including those from Washington State University in the US, found that the spike proteins from the bat virus, called Khosta-2, can infect human cells and that it is resistant to both the antibodies and serum from people who have been vaccinated against Sars-CoV-2.
They say that both Khosta-2 and the Covid virus are sarbecoviruses, which is a subgroup of coronaviruses.
“Our research further demonstrates that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia – even in places like western Russia where the Khosta-2 virus was found – also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against Sars-CoV-2,” scientists wrote in the study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens on Thursday.
Researchers are calling for the creation of vaccines that protect against all types of sarbecoviruses, not just the known types of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
“Unfortunately, many of our current vaccines are designed to specific viruses we know infect human cells or those that seem to pose the biggest risk to infect us. But that is a list that’s everchanging. We need to broaden the design of these vaccines to protect against all sarbecoviruses,” study co-author Michael Letko said in a statement.
Scientists first found the Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 viruses in Russian bats in late 2020, but they didn’t think they were dangerous to people at the time.
“But when we looked at them more, we were really surprised to find they could infect human cells. That changes a little bit of our understanding of these viruses, where they come from and what regions are concerning,” Dr Letko said.
Researchers say that Khosta-1 didn’t pose much of a threat to humans, but Khosta-2 did have some worrying traits.
They discovered that it can infect cells by attaching its spike protein to a receptor protein called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is found in all human cells.
The Covid-19 virus uses the same ACE2 protein to get into human cells and infect them.
Scientists used serum from people who had been vaccinated against Covid-19 to see if current anti-Covid vaccines could protect against the new virus. They found that Khosta-2 was not neutralised.
Researchers also tested serum from people who had been infected with the omicron variant against Khosta-2, but these antibodies did not work either.
Even though the new virus doesn’t have some genes that are thought to be involved in making people sick, there is a chance that Khosta-2 will mix with another virus like Sars-CoV-2.
“When you see Sars-2 has this ability to spill back from humans and into wildlife, and then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals with these properties we really don’t want them to have, it sets up this scenario where you keep rolling the dice until they combine to make a potentially riskier virus,” Dr Letko said.
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