Scientists are collecting bat samples in northern Cambodia in an effort to understand the origin of the new coronavirus pandemic, returning to an area where a decade ago an animal that closely resembled the new coronavirus was found in animals.
Two specimens of bats belonging to the rhinoceros species were collected in 2010 in the province of Stang Treng, near Lao, and are kept in refrigerators at the Cambodian Pasteur Institute (IPC) in Phnom Penh.
In tests performed on these samples Last year, a virus related to the new coronavirus was found that has killed more than 4.6 people worldwide.
The IPC Eight-member team collects bat samples and records their species, sex, age and other details in one week. A similar survey is being conducted in the Philippines.
“We hope that the results of this research will help people better understand covid-19,” said Thavry Hoem, head of the mission.
Host animals, such as bats, often have no symptoms from the viruses they carry, but they can have devastating consequences if they are transmitted to other animals or humans.
Dr. Veasna Duong, head of the virology department at IPC, said the department had carried out four missions in the past two years, hoping to gather information on the origin and evolution of the virus. “We want to see if it doesn’t need to be there and (…) find out how it turned out,” he explained.
However, Duong stressed that humans are responsible for the destruction caused by covid-19 because they interfere with and destroy the natural environment in which wild animals live.
“If we try to get close to the wild, we are more likely to be infected by a virus transmitted by wild animals than usual. “The chances of the virus mutating and infecting people are also increasing.”
This project, funded by France, also aims to examine how wildlife trafficking may occur in explaining coronavirus to humans.
“(The program) aims to provide new insights into the wildlife meat chains in Cambodia, to document the diversity of coronavirus pathways circulating in them and to develop a flexible and comprehensive early warning system for further virus spread,” he explained. Julia Guigebo, a researcher in the Department of Virology at IPC.
Other deadly bats are the Ebola virus, but also other coronaviruses such as those responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).