Scientists in the USA have claimed that a new Russian bat virus could dodge the Covid vaccine and infect humans.
Russian horseshoe bats are understood to be the source of the virus, called Khosta-2 but referred to as a sarbecovirus.
According to the journal PLoS Pathogens the virus has been exhibiting “troubling traits”.
Researchers from the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health at Washington State University (WSU) first made the discovery that the virus can use spike proteins to infect the cells of people in a similar way to Covid.
The corresponding author of the study and virologist at WSU, Michael Letko, said: “Our research further demonstrates that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia – even in places like western Russia where the Khosta-2 virus was found – also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2”.
He added that vaccines needed to be developed that would work to tackle all kinds of sarbecoviruses.
Although hundreds of sarbecoviruses have been found in bats in Asia most have been deemed as unable to transfer to humans.
Two types however, Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 which were discovered near Sochi National Park in Russia, have now become of interest to scientists.
Letko said: “Genetically, these weird Russian viruses looked like some of the others that had been discovered elsewhere around the world, but because they did not look like SARS-CoV-2, no one thought they were really anything to get too excited about.
“But when we looked at them more, we were really surprised to find they could infect human cells. That changes a little bit of our understanding of these viruses, where they come from and what regions are concerning”.
The authors report however that the virus may lack some of the features needed to create disease in humans.
Letko added “When you see SARS-2 has this ability to spill back from humans and into wildlife, and then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals with these properties we really don't want them to have, it sets up this scenario where you keep rolling the dice until they combine to make a potentially riskier virus.”