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Terrifying Khosta-2 Russian Bat Virus Could Spark the Next Pandemic


The Pandemic caused by covid-19 have not completed yet. In fact, it shows signs of stretching one long time.

But even as politicians and health authorities struggle with how, if at all, to continue to solve current pandemicScientists have predicted next one. They’re scouring the planet for animal viruses, like SARS-CoV-2can affect populations and cause serious illness on a global scale.

They just found one. And it dirty.

In 2020, a team of Russian scientists collected a few horseshoe bats in Sochi National Park in southern Russia. The Russians identified in those bats a new virus they called Khosta-2. Behaviorally, the virus appears to have a lot in common with SARS-CoV-2.

Two years later, a separate team — including scientists from Washington State University and Tulane University — tested Khosta-2 alongside another newly discovered Russian bat virus, in hopes of identifying whether they are capable of infecting humans. And, if so, whether our antibodies have any chance of blocking them.

The initial results that the team described in a new peer-reviewed study appeared last week in a scientific journal Pathogen PLOS, are worrying. The second bat virus does not appear to be infectious to that extent. But Khosta-2, on the other hand, prefers human cells.

“We examined how mutant proteins from these bats infect human cells under different conditions,” the scientists wrote. “We found that the spike from the Khosta-2 virus can infect [the] cells, similar to human pathogens, use the same entry mechanisms. “

Equally worrisome, Khosta-2 demonstrated “resistance against the neutralization of sera from vaccinated persons with SARS-CoV-2”. In other words, our body’s defenses against COVID-19 may not protect us from a putative illness caused by Khosta-2.

The implication is very clear. We need better antibodies to defeat Khosta-2. The scientists behind the new study wrote: “Our findings highlight the urgent need to continue to develop new and more protective vaccines…”

Like SARS-CoV-2 and hundreds of other so-called sarbecoviruses, Khosta-2 uses that spike-shaped protein on its surface to attach to and infect host cells. But most sarbecoviruses can only infect species that are their usual hosts. An example is bats.

What makes Khosta-2 especially is that, like SARS-CoV-2, it can also infect humans — at least under laboratory conditions. What makes Khosta-2 especially scary? is that it seems to eliminate antibodies that are currently active against SARS-CoV-2. Again, under laboratory conditions.

The more we disrupt ecosystems and allow a new mix of species and viruses, the more we spin nature’s roulette wheel.

James Lawler, University of Nebraska Medical Center

There is a lot of uncertainty here. The Tulane-Washington State University team did not attempt to infect real humans with Khosta-2. To test for infection, they exposed the Russian bat virus to cultured human cells. To test our immunity, they exposed the virus to COVID antibodies. “We can only test what we can test,” Michael Letko, a Washington State University virologist and one of the study’s authors, told The Daily Beast.

But immunoassays in particular aren’t necessarily representative of how our immune systems actually work – something the study’s authors readily admit. “The immune response in an individual will be multifaceted, including innate and adaptive responses and cell-mediated immunity,” says Letko. “We only looked at antibody neutralization in this study.”

So don’t panic. There are many animal viruses, many of which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 or at least use some similar biological mechanisms to infect their hosts. Most have never infected humans — and may not even do so under real-world conditions outside of a lab.

With further studies, Khosta-2 could become a scientific species of red herring. A virus that looks a lot scarier than it really is. James Lawler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told The Daily Beast: “We had trouble predicting exactly which would actually crack the code to become a pathogen. effective for humans.

But it cannot be denied that, as the population is expanding and more and more forests are cleared for farms and cities, more and more exotic animals are coming into contact with more exotic animals. Each encounter is an opportunity for an animal virus to infect humans — a process scientists call zoonotic disease.

“In general, we can say that the risk of disease in animals is increasing for many viruses,” said Letko. Review of recent history of infectious diseases in the population. SARS-CoV-2 is just latest Viruses from animals will spread to humans, following avian influenza, SARS-CoV-1, MERS and others.

There is every reason to fear a pandemic after COVID-19. Perhaps Khosta-2 will be the next virus. Maybe it will be some other pathogen. “The more we disrupt ecosystems and allow for the mixing of new species and viruses, the more we spin the roulette wheel of nature,” Lawler said. We need to keep our eyes open — and prepare.

The most helpful thing we can do, besides stopping cutting down the forests where bats and their viruses live, is to develop vaccines that work against a range of similar pathogens. . Have some universal coronavirus vaccine development that scientists hope will combat current and future variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Letko says similar “pan-coronavirus” vaccines can also work against sarbecoronaviruses like Khosta-2. We can’t say for sure until we test them. But as COVID funding dries up, intensive testing could be further and further into the future.

And if these popular vaccines do not against Khosta-2, we may need vax formulas, which are even more effective. Barton Haynes, an immunologist with the Duke University Human Vaccine Institute who is developing a new pan-coronavirus vaccine, told The Daily Beast that the most likely outcome would be a combination Combinations of separate injections, taken together, can provide broad protection against the entire sarbecoronavirus series.

In that case, we might have a race in hand. Can we develop these brand new vaccines faster than some new sarbecoronaviruses — whether Khosta-2 or some undiscovered cousin — that infect animals? to humans and make the leap for mankind? And can we have enough people to really pick vaccines in time?

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