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30 Oct, 2020 10:51

Covid-19 inspired field research finds previously unknown coronaviruses in Russia's bat population, experts urge calm but caution

Covid-19 inspired field research finds previously unknown coronaviruses in Russia's bat population, experts urge calm but caution

Don't panic (for now, at least), but epidemiology research specialists have detected unknown coronaviruses in bats on Russian soil. The discovery is particularly notable given it's believed Covid-19 emerged a similar source.

In August, employees of health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor's Institute of Epidemiology began to collect droppings from bats around the country, including in Moscow, Volgograd, and the Black Sea coast. Two months later, according to Anna Speranskaya who is head of the genomics research group at the institute, the investigation found coronaviruses.

“The study has not been completed. It will take us about two years to complete,” Speranskaya said on Thursday. “So far, the study has shown only that there are some (so far unknown) coronaviruses in bats living in Russia.”

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Coronaviruses are a group of viruses found in mammals and birds, of which Covid-19 is the most famous. Some types of coronaviruses cause the common cold, whereas others can lead to much more deadly diseases, like SARS and MERS. The research conducted by Rospotrebnadzor has not yet identified which strains are present in Russian bats.

The study also identified the genome sequences of several other non-coronavirus viruses.

According to a post on the watchdog's official Instagram page, humans need not worry about the research results, and should just try not to touch bats or ruin their habitats. 

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“Bats are no more dangerous than other wild animals. For example, foxes and hedgehogs can also carry viruses dangerous to humans,” the post read.

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