Researchers have discovered coronaviruses in Lao bats that appear to be the closest known virus to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.
Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France and the University of Laos in a new study examined 645 bats from limestone caves in northern Laos to identify SARS-CoV-2-related viruses. They screened. They found three viruses in their experiments called BANAL-52, BANAL-103 and BANAL-236, respectively. And more than 95% of their total genome is shared with SARS-CoV-2.
According to scientists, the BANAL-52 virus, which was discovered in a scientific study, is 96.8% similar to SARS-CoV-2. In this respect, BANAL-52 is genetically more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any other known virus. The closest similar option to date was the RaTG13 virus, which was discovered in horseshoe bats in 2013 and shared 96.1% of the genome with SARS-COV-2.
In addition, all three newly discovered viruses are similar to SARS-CoV-2 compared to other known viruses in the main part of their genome called the receptor binding domain (RBD). RBD is the part of the virus that allows it to attach to host cells. This part of SARS-CoV-2 is one of the main ways to enter human cells.
In general, a new study shows that newly discovered viruses can also bind to ACE2 in humans and use it to enter cells. Researchers say other viruses, such as RaTG13, known as the ancestors of SARS-CoV-2, have not been able to do this.
The researchers say the three viruses could bind to ACE2 as well as the early SARS-CoV-2 strains found in Wuhan, China. The results of their research also show that there is a chain of viruses in nature that are very similar to the original SARS-CoV-2 strains.