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Researchers study bats to track COVID-19 origins

Samples from bats in northern Cambodia may tell us more about COVID-19.

Researchers in Phnom Penh discovered a virus similar to the coronavirus in horseshoe bat samples collected a decade ago.

Tests done on them last year revealed a close relative to the coronavirus.

Thavry Hoem was part of an eight-member team that logged the region’s bat species, sex, age and other data last month.

"The reason that we selected this location as our study site because based on previous study they found that there is a special richness of bat diversity in this area, especially for the horseshoe bats… We hope that the result from this study can help the world to have a better understanding about the COVID-19."

Host species like bats don’t typically display symptoms of the virus they carry, but it can be devastating if transmitted to humans or other animals.

Deadly viruses originating from bats include Ebola and other coronaviruses, such as SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, but leading virologist, Dr. Veasna Duong, said humans were responsible for COVID-19, which has killed nearly 5 million people worldwide, due to interference and destruction of habitats.

He said, "If we try to be near wildlife, the chances of getting the virus carried by wildlife are more than normal. The chances of the virus transforming to infect humans are also more.”

The project at at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) aims to look at how the wildlife trade could be playing a part transmitting deadly viruses.

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