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toggle caption Steeve Jordan/AFP via Getty Images A researcher with Franceville International Medical Research Centre collects bats in a net on November 25, 2020 inside a cave in Gabon.
Scientists are looking for potential sources for a possible next coronavirus pandemic.
When the pandemic began last year, scientists went looking for the origins of the coronavirus.
It looked like the virus jumped from a bat into humans.
Now, scientists are worried that another coronavirus will strike again, from either a bat or some other animal.
We live in a kind of coronavirus world,’ says virologist Edward person“>Holmes at the University of Sydney.
This past year, Holmes and his colleagues trapped several hundred bats in a tiny section of the Yunnan province in southern China — an area about the size of Los Angeles International Airport.
‘So in this very small area that we sampled, about 1,100 hectare, there’s an amazing number of bat viruses,’ says Holmes, who reported the findings online last week.
Holmes and his team found that the bats harbored 24 new coronaviruses, including four closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, and three viruses closely related to SARS-CoV, which caused a smaller outbreak back in 2003.
On top of that, Holmes says, the bat species carrying these viruses are common across most of Southeast Asia.
You’d find an amazing diversity of coronaviruses,’ Holmes says.
And depending on how you define a virus species, Holmes says, there are likely thousands of different coronaviruses all around the world.
Back in 2018, scientists at the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance tried to answer that question in communities from southern China, including villages in the same province where Holmes trapped the bats.
In one area, they found that nearly 3% of people had been infected with an unknown coronavirus in the past few years.
If you expand those findings to all parts of Southeast Asia where people are exposed to these bats, Daszak estimates that more than a million people are infected with unknown coronaviruses each year.
In other words, new coronaviruses are constantly jumping from bats and other animals into people — a process scientists call ‘spillover.
Both Daszak and Edward Holmes agree: The next coronavirus outbreak could be right around the corner.
‘Coronavirus pandemics are not a once in a hundred year event.