DESCRIPTION – Scientists say this new virus could evade the immune protection provided by vaccines. Others invite not to give in to psychosis, remembering that it has not been observed in humans.
For a few days, a new virus has been talking about him. Nicknamed the “khosta-2“, would be from the same family as Sars and Sars’CoV-2, that is, Covid-19. In a study published Thursday in the journal PLOS pathogens, researchers at the University of Washington claim that the latter could be transmitted to humans. And since misfortune never comes alone, this virus could elude the immune protection provided by current vaccines against Covid.
Discovered in 2020 near the Russian national park of Sochi, the Khosta-1 and Khosta 2 viruses would have worrying common features with the Coronavirus subcategory. “Our research demonstrates once again that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia, including in places like western Russia where the Khosta-2 virus was discovered, also pose a global health threat and ongoing vaccination campaigns against SARS-CoV-2. “Warns virologist Michael Letko, author of the study. Should we therefore fear a new pandemic?
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For Professor Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, at the moment there is no reason to worry. The virus would threatenif an outbreak started in Russia“, which is not the case, no case in humans having been cataloged at the moment. “It is only the result of surveillance, reinforced after the Covid-19 epidemic, of bats potentially carrying this type of virus.», explains the epidemiologist.
Enhanced Surveillance in Bats
Since the appearance of SARS-CoV-2, surveillance of bats has been reinforced to identify possible reservoirs and intermediate hosts of this virus. “Like that of migratory birds that carry the flusays Professor Flahault. “We will certainly move towards monitoring small mammals of the horseshoe bat family to see which is the carrier of the coronavirus and whether or not they are of concern.“. Just a year ago, in September 2021, researchers at the Institut Pasteur reported identifyingin northern Laos, bat coronaviruses, which appear to be the closest ancestors of SARS-CoV-2, responsible for Covid-19.
But why do bats carry these viruses? First of all, it should be remembered that a virus – a very small infectious agent – it can only reproduce by parasitizing a cell. “It is said that there are 1,600,000 viruses that have not been identified in the animal kingdom“, Professor Flahault teaches us. “All mammals, and the entire living kingdom, if I may say so, carry viruses.For example, a liter of uncontaminated seawater contains millions of viruses. “But these viruses are not pathogens, they are carriers of life. Remember, though, that life came to earth this way.“, adds the teacher.
For a virus to be pathogenic, it must be able to enter a human cell and multiply there. But mammalian viruses share genomes that are not too far from ours. “The bat has a more generic proximity to us, so the viruses it carries are more likely to infect us.says Professor Flahault. He adds : “Russian horseshoe batslike those in Laos have coronaviruses that can directly infect humans without going through an intermediate host“.
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In short, we hear about these viruses not because they are multiplying, but because their vigilance has increased. “These viruses have been around for many, many years, and Russian bats have certainly been carriers of this coronavirus for some time.“, relativizes Antoine Flahault.
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