New COVID strain found in British horseshoe bat

Researchers have detected a new coronavirus strain, related to the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, in a horseshoe bat in England. Scientists sampled fecal samples for viruses from 50 lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros) from Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wales. Genome sequencing showed a novel coronavirus in one of the samples, making it the first time a SARS-related coronavirus was documented in a lesser horseshoe bat and the first of the viruses to be discovered in the U.K. The team said there is no evidence that the novel virus has been transmitted by humans or that it could in the future, unless it mutates. “These bats will almost certainly have harbored this virus for a very long time—probably many thousands of years,” said Diana Bell, an expert in emerging zoonotic diseases from the University of East Anglia’s School of Biological Sciences. “We didn’t know about it before because this is the first time that such tests have been carried out in U.K. bats.”

Read the study in Scientific Reports.

Header Image: Researchers detected a new coronavirus strain in a lesser horseshoe bat like the one above.
Credit: Jessica