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Bats in China carry all the ingredients to make a new SARS virus

Dangerous strains may arise when viral genes mix inside a bat

2:00pm, November 30, 2017
horseshoe bat

GOING VIRAL  Genetic studies of viruses from horseshoe bats (shown) in one cave in China suggest the animals are reservoirs of SARS coronaviruses. Bats harbor many viruses that can sometimes infect people, including Ebola and Marburg.

Viruses in bats may have mixed and matched genes to create the virus that gave rise to the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003, a new study suggests. And it could happen again. All of the ingredients needed to create a new SARS virus are found among viruses currently infecting horseshoe bats, researchers report November 30 in PLOS Pathogens.

The viruses “are poised to cause future outbreaks,” says virologist Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study. “We can’t let our guard down.”

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is caused by a type of coronavirus. After the first human case of SARS was recorded in 2002 in Guangdong Province in southern China, a global epidemic of the disease sickened more than 8,000 people and killed 774 in 2003.

In that outbreak, masked

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