Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who have been studying the Chinese horseshoe bats have discovered that the bats are carriers of a SARS-like virus, which has the potential of infecting humans with ease. The virus identified by the researchers is called WIV1-CoV and is capable of binding to the same receptors as SARS-CoV. Moreover, it seems to be capable of overcoming the initial barrier and jumping to humans, although the chances of this happening seem slim. When tested in mice and human cells, the WIV1-CoV virus “readily and efficiently replicated in cultured human airway tissues.” The virus produces flu-like symptoms initially, and then can cause pneumonia, and compromise the body’s immune system. According to the researchers, the virus responds to antibodies developed to treat SARS, but new vaccines would have to be created considering the differences in the viral sequence between the two viruses. Talking about the study, Ralph Baric, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, the lead researcher, said, "This type of work generates information about novel viruses circulating in animal populations and develops resources to help define the threat these pathogens may pose to human populations."
Read more in Science Daily.