About 66,000 people in Southeast Asia are infected with the SARS-related coronavirus each year, the researchers said.
About 66,000 people in Southeast Asia are infected with SARS-related coronaviruses each year, and nearly 500 million live near the habitat of the bat hosts where the viruses are found, according to a new study.
The study, published Wednesday in Nature Communications, said the transmission of the virus from bats to humans may have been “significantly underestimated,” adding that its mapping of bat species in the region could help pinpoint the origins of COVID-19 .
The researchers focused on 26 bat species known to carry SARS-like coronaviruses, spread over an area of 5.1 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) from China to Southeast and South Asia.
They then integrated data on antibody levels from reported bat contacts.
Southern China, northeastern Myanmar, Laos, and northern Vietnam were identified as the regions with the highest diversity of bat species carrying SARS-like coronaviruses (SARSr-CoVs).
“We estimate that an average of 66,000 people in Southeast Asia are infected with SARSr-CoV each year, suggesting that bat-to-human SARSr-CoV spillover is common in the region and that most national surveillance programs and clinical studies have detected no cases,” they said.
“These data on geography and spillover size can be used in surveillance and prevention programs for potential future emergence of bat coronaviruses,” the paper said.
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strain.
The study’s authors include Peter Daszak, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of COVID-19, who visited Wuhan early last year, where the pandemic was first detected in late 2019.
The WHO said in June that a lack of data from China made it difficult to determine when and how the coronavirus first entered the population.
Live wildlife trade remains the best explanation for the origins of the pandemic, and two separate spillover events may have occurred at the Huanan seafood market, with many of the earliest cases in the Huanan seafood market, according to a study published in the journal Science in late July. occur. were gathered together.