The deadly Covid-19 as the world has known since March 2020 is long over. But the coronavirus and its possible deadlier mutations have not been erased from the Earth as humankind would like to believe.
A recent study conducted by Shi Zhengli, one of China's best known virologists, popularly known as batwoman, warns that it is highly likely another coronavirus will appear in future." The paper written by Zhengli along with her colleagues, says that the world must be prepared for another disease like Covid-19 because, "if a coronavirus caused diseases to emerge before, there is a high chance it will cause future outbreaks."
What does the study say?
In the study, the risk of 40 coronavirus species was evaluated by Shi Zhengli's team from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The team rated half of the species that is 20 as "highly risky," of which six are already known to have caused diseases that infected humans, according to a report in South China Post. The study also says that there is evidence that another three infected other animal species.
The study, which is based on an analysis of viral traits including population, genetic diversity, host species and history of zoonosis, also says that it is almost certain that there will be future diseases like coronavirus again. Zhengli's team also identified important hosts of the pathogen, including natural hosts such as bats and rodents. The study also identified possible intermediate hosts like camels, civets, pigs or pangolins.
Why the study needs to be taken seriously?
Although the article mentioning the study was released in July in the journal Emerging Microbes and Infections, it has only recently gained traction on social media. The study comes even as Chinese authorities are infamously trying to downplay concerns around Covid-19 and some cities have allegedly even stopped giving infection data.
Zhengli is the Director for the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Her research is under scrutiny as it also studies the suspected role in possible lab-leak that could have caused the first Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
The paper titled, 'Assessment and sero-diagnosis for coronavirus with risk of human spillover' identifies 20 viruses to have a high risk of causing human outbreaks. Such viruses (the coronavirus that can cause human disease), will most likely be causative agent of future outbreak, for instance bats related to SARS, camel related to MERS, and domestic mammals carrying other kind of viruses.