Researchers have discovered a virus in Russian bats that might pose complications for the human population, according to a report in Time magazine. The Khosta-2 virus, which belongs to the same sub-category of coronaviruses as SARS-CoV-2, is already capable of infecting human cells and evading the immunological defence provided by the COVID-19 vaccination, the outlet further said. It added that the discovery may lead to fresh concerns amid public health professionals.
A study by researchers of Washington State University’s Paul G Allen School for Global Health says that spike proteins in Khosta-2 may penetrate human cells while being resistant to both monoclonal antibodies and serum from people who have received the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The study has been published in the journal ‘PLOS Pathogens’.
Sarbecovirus, to which Khosta-2 and SARS-CoV-2 belong, is a subgroup of coronaviruses. Michael Letko, a WSU virologist and corresponding author of the study, told WSU News, “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.”
Mr Letko also stated that rather than just protecting against known versions of SARS-CoV-2, the discovery of Khosta-2 highlights the necessity to create universal vaccinations to defend against sarbecoviruses in general.
In the past few years, hundreds of sarbecoviruses have been discovered, mostly in Asian bats, but majority of them do not possess the ability to infect human cells. Initially, the same was thought about Khosta-2, but recent research has renewed concerns about infection spreading in humans.
In order to research the two recently found viruses, Mr Letko collaborated with two WSU faculty members: viral ecologist Stephanie Seifert, the first author, and viral immunologist Bonnie Gunn. They discovered that Khosta-1 posed minimal harm to people, while Khosta-2 exhibited several alarming features.