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Smithsonian Scientists Discover Six New Coronaviruses in Bats in Myanmar. Videos & Info.

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

The new viruses are not harmful to humans or closely related to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19

Researchers from the Smithsonian’s Global Health Program found six new coronaviruses in bats in Myanmar. (Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)

smithsonianmag.com

Finding new diseases is difficult and dangerous work. In the middle of the night, the researchers would get dressed in protective gear. They would wear suits that covered them from head to toe, goggles, two pairs of gloves, and boots. Then they would go to caves and set up nets to capture bats and tarps to collect their droppings. There would be so many bats that it would take the team just a few minutes to have hundreds to sample.

Studying these bats, researchers from the Smithsonian’s Global Health Program discovered six new coronaviruses, the same family of viruses as the one that causes COVID-19, which has infected more than 1.5 million people globally, including more than 459,000 in the United States. They published their results Thursday in the journal PLOS ONE. While they do not suspect the new viruses are harmful to humans or closely related to COVID-19, the finding takes on new relevance as the world grapples with the ongoing pandemic.

“The goal is to prevent the virus from getting into the humans in the first place,” says Marc Valitutto, lead author of the study and a former wildlife veterinarian with the Global Health Program.

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