Amidst renewed calls to probe into the origins of COVID-19, Chinese researchers said they had found a batch of new coronaviruses in bats. The newly found viruses in the bats include one that may be the second-closest yet (genetically) to the COVID-19 virus.
The researchers say that their discoveries in southwestern China show just how many coronaviruses are there in bats and how many have the potential to spread to people.
In a report published in the journal Cell, the Chinese researchers from Shandong University said, "In total, we assembled 24 novel coronavirus genomes from different bat species, including four SARS-CoV-2 like coronaviruses."
The samples were collected from small, forest-dwelling bats between May 2019 and November 2020. The researchers say that they tested urine and feces as well as taking swabs from the bats' mouths.
According to the Chinese researchers, one of the viruses was very similar, genetically to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that's causing the ongoing pandemic.
Now, scientists and countries calling for further investigations to figure out whether the virus originated naturally or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.