A world-renowned Chinese virologist has warned that bats in China and other South Asian countries harbor more Covid-like viruses that can be transmitted to humans.
Dr. Known as the ‘bat woman’ for her ability to detect coronaviruses in bats, Shi Zheng-Li warned that other strains of the virus may be found in nature.
Speaking during a webinar on Thursday at a joint session of the National Academy of Medicine and the Veterinary Academy of France, she said bats are considered the natural reservoir for Sars-Cov-2 – the new strain of the virus as we know it today.
But she said the virus was likely passed on to another animal – known as the intermediate host – before it reached humans, reports the Guardian.
“We have to look for them not only in China, but also in South Asian countries,” said Dr. Shi of the bats.
Research by Dr. Shi – who is credited with capturing the genetic code of Sars-Cov-2 just days after the first reported case in Wuhan – has found other coronaviruses in regions of southern China.
“We believe these viruses have a high risk of interspecies transmission to humans,” said Dr. Shi, who has been studying the coronavirus for 16 years.
Thursday’s webinar brought together doctors, biologists and virologists to analyze the ins and outs of the spread of Covid-19.
Discussions arose about how long the strain of the virus might be circulating in animals or humans before the first case was reported in China last December.
Dr. Shi said it could either have been sitting with the bats or humans for a very long time.
Covid-19 has claimed the deaths of more than 1.5 million people since the outbreak, while 66 million worldwide have been infected with the virus.
Dr. Shi made the comments as teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the medical journal Lancet ready to travel to China to track down the origin of the deadly virus.
It comes like an Associated Press investigation found a widespread shortage of tests and inadequate testing in China, when the pandemic could still be delayed, were largely caused by secrecy and favoritism at the top Chinese control bureau.
The news agency previously found that China delayed the public’s warning about the virus’s rise and withheld information from the WHO.
“All told, these errors in January caused the virus to spread unnoticed through Wuhan and around the world,” the report read.