(ORDO NEWS) — The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus appeared thanks to the migrations of bats caused by global warming. Due to climate change, bats migrated to a new environment and brought their viruses with them, among which was the ancestor of the culprit of the current pandemic.
This hypothesis was voiced in a scientific article published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, we paraphrase the classics, we say “coronavirus”, we mean “SARS-CoV-2”. But in reality, coronaviruses are a vast family, and most of them cannot infect humans. SARS-CoV-2 was the saddest exception, eclipsing SARS-CoV (the culprit for the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak) and MERS-CoV (the causative agent of Middle East respiratory syndrome).
It is believed that all three named pathogens were transmitted to humans from bats. These bats are a treasure trove of coronaviruses. According to experts, about three thousand (!) Types of coronaviruses circulate in the world population of bats, and each individual carries two or three types of viruses in its blood.
For the animals themselves, these viruses are usually harmless. But some of them can be transmitted to humans and cause trouble. By the way, scientists warned about this long before the advent of SARS-CoV-2, but it seems that no one listened to them.
The authors of the new work asked a simple question: where did so many bats come from in southern China (where, we recall, and the COVID-19 pandemic began)?
Using data on temperature, precipitation and cloud cover over the past century, they tracked how the climate of the region has changed. Along with the climate, the vegetation probably changed, and animals came after the new plants.
“Climate change over the past century has made the habitat in southern China’s Yunnan province suitable for more bat species,” says first author Robert Beyer of the University of Cambridge.
Experts know what types of vegetation are optimal for the habitat of certain bats. The authors based their calculations on this.
It turned out that over the past century, 40 new species of bats were to be resettled in the Chinese province of Yunnan and the adjacent areas of Myanmar and Laos. And they brought with them about a hundred types of coronaviruses.
“As climate change changed the habitat, [bats] species have left some areas and moved to others, carrying their viruses with them. This not only changed the regions where viruses are present, but most likely led to new interactions between animals and viruses, leading to the transmission or development of more harmful viruses, ”Beyer suggests.
In this way, the ancestor of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could get to South China.
“Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has changed as a result of climate change could be an important step in rebuilding the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Beyer said.
By the way, South China is not the only place where bats are growing near humans. Researchers have found that the same is happening in parts of Central Africa and Central and South America. So in the near future, humanity may face new coronaviruses. Perhaps they will turn out to be even more dangerous than SARS-CoV-2.
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