A virus recently discovered in a Russian bat and similar to covid-19 is capable of entering human cells and would be resistant to vaccines, but it lacks some of the genes thought to be involved in human pathogenesis.
The virus has been called Khosta-2 and it is a sarbecovirus, the same subcategory as SARS-CoV-2, which causes covid-19, indicates the study published by Plos Pathogenes
A Washington State University-led team found that Khosta-2 proteins can infect human cells and are resistant to both monoclonal antibodies and serum from people vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.
The Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 viruses were discovered in bats in Russia at the end of 2020 and initially appeared to pose no threat to humans.
However, the lead author of the research, Michael Letko, of the University of Washington, indicated that when they analyzed it in depth, they found that they could infect human cells.
The team determined that Khosta-1 posed a low risk to humans, but Khosta-2 showed “some worrying features,” according to a statement from the University of Washington.
Like SARS-CoV-2, Khosta-2 can use its Spike (S) protein to infect by binding to the ACE2 receptor on human cells.
The researchers wanted to determine if current vaccines could protect against this virus and found that it was not neutralized by serum derived from groups vaccinated for covid-19.
They also tried serum from people who had been infected with the omicron variant, but the antibodies were also ineffective.
Letko indicated that “fortunately the new virus lacks some of the genes that are believed to be involved in pathogenesis in humans”, although there is a risk that it will recombine with a second virus such as covid-19.
“When we see that SARS-Cov-2 has this ability to spread from humans to wildlife, and then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals, with these properties that we really don’t want them to have, it sets in. this scenario where you keep rolling the dice until they combine to make a potentially riskier virus,” he said.
The discovery of Khosta-2, according to Letko, highlights the need to develop universal vaccines that protect against sarbecoviruses in general, and not only against the known variants of covid-19.
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