An international team of scientists, led by specialists from Georgetown University, has identified more than 400 species of bats that may be carriers of coronaviruses unknown to science. Researchers used artificial neural networks for this purpose.
Scientists are alarming that we are talking about pathogens that can be dangerous to humans. According to specialists, the indicated species should be carefully monitored, as the viruses they transmit may cause further epidemics.
– We have compiled a list of bat species that need to be examined in detail at a later date. Studying their viruses and living habits will help us narrow down the number of bat species that will need to be monitored to understand when and where the next coronavirus outbreak could occur, said one of the study authors, Oklahoma University Associate Professor Daniel Becker.
Potential sources of further epidemics
Dr Collin Carlson of Georgetown University points out that if we want to track SARS-like coronaviruses, we need to “start by profiling their hosts: their ecology, evolution and even wing shape.”
As the TASS news agency notes, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced scientists around the world to actively research the origins of SARS-CoV-2, as well as search for other dangerous animal coronaviruses that can infect humans. These searches showed that similar pathogens are present in populations of bats and other wild animals, including in Russia, USA, Cambodia and Switzerland.
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The authors of the latest study, published in the scientific journal Lancet Microbe, have identified more than 400 species of bats whose populations may be the source of further COVID-19-like pandemics. Among them were non-animals living in Eurasia, equatorial and tropical Africa, and in various regions of the Americas.
Scientists have also identified several regions of the world where the largest number of these species is concentrated. Dozens of them live in Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, as well as in some European countries and in the Congo.
Becker and his colleagues say this will significantly improve epidemiologists’ ability to predict where and when the next global pandemic may occur. For their work, they relied on data that had been collected over the past two years as part of projects to search for previously unknown coronaviruses in bats and other wildlife.