Two and a half years later the beginning of the covid-19 pandemicScientists from Washington State University published, on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, the results of their research on a virus from the same familydiscovered in bats in Russia, which would be able to infect humans and escape antibodies and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.
Called Khosta-2, it belongs to the category of “sarbecovirus” – the same subcategory of coronavirus as Covid-19, with which it presents “disturbing features”According to this study published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.
” Our research demonstrates once again that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia, including in places like western Russia where the Khosta-2 virus was discovered, also pose a global health threat and ongoing vaccination campaigns against SARS-CoV-2. said Michael Letko, a virologist and study author.
According to him, this discovery highlights the need to develop new vaccines that not only target known variants of Covid-19, such as Omicron, but protect against all sarbecoviruses.
Most sarbecoviruses cannot infect humans.
Of the hundreds of sarbecoviruses discovered in recent years, most have been found in Asian bats and are not capable of infecting human cells.
The Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 viruses were discovered near Russia’s Sochi National Park in 2020 and initially appeared to pose no threat to humans, according to the study’s authors.
“Genetically, these strange Russian viruses resembled others that had been discovered in other parts of the world, but since they did not resemble SARS-CoV-2, no one thought there was really anything to worry about.”explains Michael Letko. ” But when we looked at them more closely, we were very surprised to discover that they could infect human cells. This changes our understanding of these viruses a bit, where they come from and which regions are affected.” he added.
Nevertheless, good news. If Khosta-2 did manage to infect humans, it does not appear to have any genes that can cause serious disease in humans. A fact that, however, could evolve if the virus circulated on a large scale and mixed with the genes of SARS-CoV-2.