A group of experts in Singapore warned that countries may face the emergence of a new virus called SARS-CoV-3, which is transmitted from humans back to bats.
According to the Straits Times, Professor Wang Linfa of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at the Duke School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, said a new pandemic could emerge if the virus is proven to be transmitted from humans back to animals. . The warning was made by the expert during the ASEAN Digital Public Health Special Ministerial Meeting on October 6.
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Professor Wang said that most scientists believe in the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 originated from bats in Asia. The virus then jumped to “animal X,” possibly a pangolin or civet, before being transmitted to humans at a fish market in Wuhan, China.
The expert emphasized: “What happened next was the strong transmission of the virus from person to person. But what surprised us was that this virus could easily be transmitted back from person to animal. “.
Previously, a few studies have reported that pets get nCoV from their owners, but, there is no evidence to show the opposite. Professor Wang said: “It would be very worrying if humans could infect a new host, such as bats in the US mainland, which is not a natural reservoir for the virus.”
Another possible scenario is that an infected person leaves uneaten fruit or food. Then a bat picked it up and ate it again. From here, a new chain of infection will form and spread as we have seen in Covid-19. This hypothesis is based on Prof Wang’s studies in bat immunology and zoology.
“Bats have a very unique immune system, they can sustain the virus without developing disease. However, the virus can still mutate and pass on to animals X, Y or Z. So when the virus mutates, it can still be mutated. If that goes to animals X, Y, Z and to humans, this is where we get disease X, Y, Z or SARS-CoV-3,” explained Prof Wang.
Each time a virus jumps between species, it is forced to make major genetic changes, adapting to a new host. According to Prof. Wang, the more different species it invades, the more the virus has to change. One of these new viruses can become SARS-CoV-3.
Professor Wang is part of a team of Singaporean experts that successfully cultured the new virus after it emerged in Wuhan last year. Singapore becomes the third country besides China to do this. It allows the island nation to conduct its own series of polymerase chain reaction tests to detect SARS-CoV-2.
He is also a member of the Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) since the beginning of the pandemic. On January 30, 2020, the Committee warned WHO that this outbreak of Covid-19 was a public health emergency of international concern.
How to prepare for the coming pandemic?
In fact, with this warning, countries need to prepare for a new pandemic that could emerge. Prof Wang recommends three levels of preparation.
The first will be the pre-emergence phase. National health authorities need to consider which viruses are present in animal species and which animals are most frequently traded and consumed by humans.
This is very difficult to detect, the expert said. Because experts cannot determine which specific viruses in animals can be transmitted to humans.
Therefore, to deal with the pandemic, scientists will need to coordinate with governments and international organizations to assess risks and prepare countermeasures to prevent the spread of the virus. In other words, we are finding our way, need to be well prepared for the work of “catching up” with the new virus.
The second level will be the early warning phase. When severe, unusual cases appear at the local health unit, this can be a warning sign of a new virus.
This case we witnessed in Wuhan, China. Doctors discovered that many patients had severe pneumonia at the same time.
Level 3 – when the virus begins to spread, the last resort is to develop vaccines and treatments. A team of scientists at the Duke School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore is working on this issue.
How to live safely before the pandemic
Professor Wang and colleagues are working on a booster device to provide a broader range of protection against future strains of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses. The team did this after they discovered that patients who recovered from SARS (in 2003) and those who received the Pfizer vaccine both created antibodies that neutralize all new nCoV strains, including Delta.
Professor Wang said the enhanced attack against SARS-Cov-1, the cause of SARS, has been tested in mice and shown to be effective. This study is intended to be tested in humans.
Mr. Wang and his team will recruit more volunteers who are patients who have recovered from SARS from many places such as Hong Kong, Guangzhou (China) or Toronto (Canada). They looked at how much immunity volunteers were able to develop when given other vaccines such as Moderna, Sinovac or AstraZeneca.