The latest study led jointly by scientists of Singapore's Duke-NUS Medical School and Thailand's Chulalongkorn University shows that SARS-CoV-2- related coronaviruses or SC2r-CoVs are circulating in animals like bats and pangolins in the Southeast Asian nation Thailand. The team examined Rhinopholus bats in a Thai cave for this study. The team found SARS-CoV-2 neutralising bodies in bats of the similar colony and in a pangolin at a wildlife checkpoint in Southern Thailand.
As per Dr Chee Wah Tan, Duke-NUS' Emerging Infectious Diseases' (EID) Senior Research Fellow and co-author of the study, the geographic distribution of genetically diverse SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses from Japan and China to Thailand over a 4,800 km range has been covered in this research. According to Dr Supaporn Wacharapluesadee of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Centre in Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine, "This is an important discovery in the search for the origin of SARS-CoV-2, which was made possible by rapid application of cutting-edge technology through transparent international collaboration."
The researchers also conducted multiple serological surveys using the Duke-NUS' SARS-CoV-2 surrogate virus neutralisation test (sVNT). The sVNT, which is sold as cPass, was developed mainly for determining neutralising antibodies in humans for monitoring the efficacy of the vaccine and detect previous infections.
As per Professor Wang Linfa of Duke-NUS' EID program and a co-author of this study, it proves that the SARS-CoV-2 surrogate neutralisation test (sVNT) can also be crucial in tracing animal origin and animal-human spillover events. The study published in the Nature Communications journal is of utmost importance for India and its neighbours as Southeast Asia is more likely to be a hotspot for similar viruses due to large and diverse bat populations. As COVID-19 cases in India breach the 1.08 crore-mark and total deaths reach 1, 55, 252, the country has also had its brush with the bat-borne Nipah virus in Kerala.