A new coronavirus which is similar to Covid-19 and which has been labelled RhGB01 has been found in British bats by Ivana Murphy a University of East Anglia student while working on her dissertation. There are fears that if a person transmitted Covid-19 to a British bat which carried this disease it may form a new virus that could infect humans and which would be untouched by the current vaccines. The experts say that such a combination of viruses is underestimated.
They say that preventing this possible transmission from people to bats is critical in the war against Covid-19 using vaccinations.
It’s the first time that a Covid-like virus has been found in bats in the UK. RhGB01 cannot be transmitted to humans in its current state according to the report by Ben Spencer, the Science Editor of The Times newspaper. The species of bat concerned is the horseshoe bat. These are found across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The bats in the survey are on the western extreme of their range said Diana Bell, a professor and expert in emerging zoonotic diseases at the University of East Anglia.
The student captured 53 of these bats in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Monmouthshire. Their faeces were collected in sterile bags. Murphy wore full protective equipment and was regularly tested for Covid-19 to avoid the kind of transmission referred to above and any chance of cross contamination.
Experts believe that this sort of virus is probably present in several other species of bat to which the horseshoe belongs. Although they are unsure how widespread it is in this species. They believe that these British bats have probably harboured the virus for many thousands of years. It was just a question of looking and finding.
The risk of transferring Covid-19 to a horseshoe bat that carried RhGB01 might occur if a person was looking after a rescued animal and that person was infected with Covid-19 without knowing it. They say that anybody coming into contact with bats such as bat rescuers or cavers should wear PPE to reduce the risk of this combined virus being conceived.