Detailed map determines potential infection spots for next COVID-like virus

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

A majority of scientists working directly and indirectly with coronaviruses and closely related viruses are almost certain that the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is from nature. However, not many imagined the frequency of zoonotic spillover that such viruses may jump from animals to humans an average of 400,000 times per year; most of the times without any detectable outbreaks.

Scientists created a detailed map of the habitats of 23 bat species known to harbor SARS-related coronaviruses and overlaid it with data on where people live to determine potential infection hot spots. This map showed that close to 500 million people live in areas where spillovers can occur, including northern India, Nepal, Myanmar, Southern China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesian Islands.

Since human interaction with bats and related animals is much higher than covered by these studies, there is a very high likelihood of more frequent spillover of zoonotic pathogens from wildlife than previously recognized, posing an increased threat of future SARS or COVID-like viruses to emerge from these areas. It's recommended that health policies and research priorities be reevaluated going forward to avert the possibility of deadlier pandemics in the future.

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