By Jackie Salo
February 3, 2020 | 11:51am | Updated
There’s growing evidence that bats sparked the new coronavirus that has killed more than 350 people, researchers said Monday.
Two new studies published Monday in the journal Nature reveal that genetic makeup for the new virus taken from several patients was closely related to a bat coronavirus.
In one study, researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China analyzed samples from seven patients, six of whom were workers at a seafood market in Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was believed to have originated.
The genome sequences of the new strain — dubbed 2019-nCoV — were 96% identical to coronaviruses found in bats, suggesting that they were the likely hosts of the disease, researchers said.
SARS was believed to have emerged from bats, although it spread to civet cats before infecting humans during the 2003 outbreak.
In the second study, researchers from China’s Fudan University looked at a 41-year-old man admitted to the hospital Dec. 26 with symptoms of respiratory illness.
He was found to have the new coronavirus and a sample taken from his lungs shared an 89.1% similarity in genome sequences with the SARS-like coronavirus from bats.
The study said it wasn’t possible to pinpoint the source of the outbreak from one patient, but the findings have been corroborated by investigations on others with the new virus.
The latest research comes after a study published in the journal The Lancet determined that 10 genome sequences of the deadly virus had a nearly identical genetic sequence to bats.
The virus has already spread to more than 17,300 people in 24 countries across the world.
“In essence, it’s a version of SARS that spreads more easily but causes less damage,” said Ian Jones, a professor at University of Reading in the UK who was not connected to the two studies.
“The virus also uses the same receptor, the door used to get into human cells, which explains transmission and why it causes pneumonia,” he said in a statement.
With Post wires