Numerous variants of the coronavirus are already circulating around the world – and more are likely to be added. A researcher gives details.
Berlin – Alex Greenwood is a scientist. He heads the Department of Wildlife Diseases at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin – and recently has a new one Coronavirus* discovered: on the African continent. “It’s no surprise to find new coronaviruses, there are thousands of them, but this could be an entirely new group. It probably comes from deer, ”Greenwood tells the news magazine Spiegel.
Using samples from drinking water holes, Greenwood and his colleagues analyze how pathogens spread. The samples contained there would reveal a variety of knowledge about the host and the pathogen, said Greenwood. In addition to this method, the research team has already collected leeches in Southeast Asia because they were full of the host animal’s blood. “Using modern sequencing techniques, we can say exactly which genetic information in the sample comes from the host animal and which from a possibly unknown pathogen.”
Corona: The search for origin continues
The novel coronavirus found has hardly been researched. According to Greenwood, it is completely uncertain whether it can even infect humans. Regardless of the fact that it is also unclear which animal may have served as an “intermediate host” for Sars-CoV-2 before the virus was transmitted to humans, is still up for debate in science* where the virus originated. The World Health Organization (WHO) ruled out a laboratory accident for a long time until Anthony Fauci, senior US virologist, expressed his doubts.
In view of possible new virus variants and a research field that is completely new, Alex Greenwood calls for a worldwide surveillance system for the virus. “We need a general surveillance system similar to that for influenza. If a virus appears anywhere in the world or appears more frequently in the animal kingdom, we have to keep an eye on it, ”he emphasizes in an interview with Spiegel. “At some point something much more deadly will come” than the viruses known up to now, he says: you have to be prepared for it.
In addition to the aspect of the overview, it is also problematic that a wide variety of viruses can generally upset the ecosystem. “It would be too short-sighted to assume that diseases that do not affect humans are not a problem. When certain animal species disappear from the ecosystem due to epidemics, the natural enemies of precisely those species that can spread diseases that are dangerous to humans, such as bats and rodents, will disappear, ”says Greenwood. “Unfortunately, this virus does not respect barriers between species as well as most other pathogens,” says Fabian Leendertz from the Robert Koch Institute of the German Press Agency.
In the European Union there are first attempts to set up a monitoring system for wild animal species, but not systematically. Greenwood’s demand is not yet sufficiently heard. (do) * fr.de and hna.de are offers from IPPEN.MEDIA.