Two new studies claim that the closest viruses linked to COVID-19 were found in Laos. The researchers found the strain similar to SARS-CoV-2 in bats living in caves in Laos.
The Current Theory Surrounding The Origin Of SARS-CoV-2
The current theory surrounding the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is that it came from Wuhan, China, since this was the place where the virus was first detected in December 2019. Many efforts focused on China, and some even believe that the virus was engineered at a lab in Wuhan.
Now, two papers are being reviewed by the journal “Nature” are casting doubt on the theories and assumptions about the origin of SARS-CoV-2. The papers submitted to “Nature” came from researchers from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, and Laos. Both papers claim that they found the viruses with receptor binding domains very similar to those found on SARS-CoV-2 in cave baths in North Laos.
The researchers took blood, saliva, anal feces, and urine samples from 645 bats from 46 different species found in limestone caves in North Laos.
The caves are close to the Southwest China border. With these samples, they discovered three separate virus strains in three different species of Rhinolophus bat. Through RNA sequencing, they found that the viruses were over 95 percent identical to SARS-CoV-2. One of these viruses was 96.8 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2.
Scientists have found three viruses in bats in Laos that are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any known viruses. https://t.co/2UnlZhccRn
— Scientific American (@sciam) September 29, 2021
What Other Experts Are Saying
This is one of the main reasons why many theorized that the COVID-19 strain was created in a laboratory. Edward Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, said, “When SARS-CoV-2 was first sequenced, the receptor-binding domain didn’t really look like anything we’d seen before.” However, with the new studies regarding the bats in the cages of Laos, it confirms that parts of SARS-CoV-2 exist in nature.
Linfa Wang, a virologist at Duke–NUS Medical School in Singapore, also shared, “I am more convinced than ever that SARS-CoV-2 has a natural origin.”
The researchers said that although the new studies offer insight into the origins of COVID-19, there are still missing links.