A new Covid-like virus has been discovered in a bat, raising fears that it could infect humans.
Scientists in the United States have warned that the disease could be resistant to current vaccines.
Covid-19 has now been circulating for more than two years and millions of Britons have been vaccinated or have some form of protection from previous infections.
The current Omicron strain has been shown to be milder than others and globally, many are learning to live with this bug.
But this new development adds to a growing body of evidence that SARPs – members of the coronavirus family – are circulating around the world. Asia and Eastern Europe.
Lead author of the study Dr Michael Letko, from Washington State University in the US, said: ‘Our research also shows that Sarpic viruses circulate in wildlife outside Asia – even in places like western Russia where Khosta-2 virus has been found – also pose a threat. Global health and ongoing vaccination campaigns against SARS-CoV-2″.
The exact origins of the virus are unclear and are currently being investigated by a team at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Khosta-2 was first found in a horseshoe bat two years ago and medics have found that this, like Covid, can infect human cells if transmitted from animal to human.
The researchers said their findings highlight the importance of developing vaccines that cover a wide range of viruses – not just one strain like Covid-19.
Dr Letko added that there are still groups at the moment trying to devise a vaccine that will protect us from the next variant of Covid.
He added: “Unfortunately, many of our current vaccines are designed for specific viruses that we know to infect human cells or those that appear to pose the greatest risk to us.
“But this is a constantly changing list. We need to expand the design of these vaccines to protect against all SARPs.”
In recent years, hundreds of Sarpic viruses have been found – mainly in bats in Asia.
In most cases, they were not able to infect humans and the Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 viruses were not initially a threat.
Dr. Letko said: “Genomically speaking, these strange Russian viruses looked like some of the other viruses discovered elsewhere around the world, but because they didn’t look like SARS-CoV-2, no one thought they were really so exciting about it.
“But when we looked at it more, we were really surprised that it could infect human cells. It changes a little bit our understanding of these viruses, where they come from and what areas of concern are.”
Medics wrote in the journal PLoS Pathogens that Khosta-2 showed “disturbing features”.
That’s because like Covid-19, it also uses the spike protein to infect human cells.
This happens when it binds to a receptor protein called ACE2.
Additional tests by the team found that the antibodies were ineffective against serum from patients who had previously been infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Experts added that while it lacks some of the genes found in Covid, there is a risk that it could combine with Omicron.
Dr Letko added: “When you see SARS-2, that ability is transmitted from humans to wildlife.
“Then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals with these characteristics that we don’t really want them to have, they set up this scenario where they keep rolling the dice until they combine to form a potentially more dangerous virus.”