American scientists have discovered a new virus in bats that could be bad news for humans. The new virus, called Khosta-2, can not only infect human cells, it is also resistant to current vaccines. Research published in the journal PLOS Pathogens says the virus is resistant to the antibodies of people vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, Newsweek reported.
The virus was first discovered in bats in Russia in 2020, but scientists did not yet believe that the virus posed a threat to humans. After much careful research by scientists, they discovered that the virus can infect human cells and become a potential threat to public health.
What is Khosta-2?
Sarbecovirus, which includes Khosta-2 and SARS-CoV-2, is a subgroup of coronaviruses.
According to a report in Time magazine, a related virus also found in Russian bats, Khosta-1, could not easily invade human cells, but Khosta-2 could. Khosta-2 attaches to the same protein, ACE2, that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells. One researcher says receptors on human cells are how viruses enter cells. If a virus can’t get in the door, it can’t get into the cell and it’s hard to diagnose an infection. The new virus can easily affect human cells. Michael Letko, an author of the study, says people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 cannot neutralize the virus, and neither can people who have recovered from Omicron infections.
However, the researchers say that this virus, like the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, has no genes that can cause serious disease in humans. But it can eventually change when mixed with SARS-CoV-2 genes.
How does it spread?
Khosta-2 circulates in wild animals such as bats, pangolins, raccoon dogs and palm civets. Mr Letko told Newsweek that at this stage it is difficult to say whether Khosta-2 has the potential to cause an epidemic or even a pandemic.
The scientists warn that if Khosta-2 is combined with SARS-CoV-2, it may have more infectious factors. “The chances of SARS-CoV-2 ever ‘meeting’ Khosta-2 in nature are certainly very slim, but there have been increasing reports describing SARS-CoV-2 flowing back into wildlife such as white-tailed deer.” on the East Coast of the United States,” Letko said.
“Right now there are groups trying to come up with a vaccine that not only protects against the next variant of SARS-2 (SARS-CoV-2), but actually protects us against the sarbecoviruses in general,” Letko said.
He added: “Unfortunately, many of our current vaccines are designed” [for] specific viruses that we know to infect human cells or viruses that seem to pose the greatest risk of infecting us. But that’s a list that keeps changing. We need to broaden the design of these vaccines to protect against all sarbecoviruses,” Letko added.
Known cases around the world
The virus lacks some of the genes believed to be involved in pathogenesis — that is, developing into a disease — in humans.