SARS-CoV-2 may have originated in mammals, likely a bat or pangolin, given that its overall molecular structure closely resembles other viruses found in these animals. Researchers have now discovered six additional coronaviruses in Myanmar-based bats.
The research, published in PLOS ONE, notes that the viruses were discovered between 2016 and 2018, but aren’t believed to be related to SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which all jumped from animals to humans.
“Viral pandemics remind us how closely human health is connected to the health of wildlife and the environment,” said the study’s lead author and former wildlife veterinarian with the Smithsonian’s Global Health Program, Marc Valitutto, in a statement. “Worldwide, humans are interacting with wildlife with increasing frequency, so the more we understand about these viruses in animals—what allows them to mutate and how they spread to other species––the better we can reduce their pandemic potential.”