A CHINESE scientist has warned bats could be carrying even more deadly coronaviruses that could transmit to humans just like Covid.
Dr Shi Zheng-Li – known as “Bat Woman” for her research – called on experts worldwide to hunt down these infections to stop another potential pandemic.
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Dr Shi Zheng-Li is known as ‘Bat Woman’ for her research on the animalsCredit: AFP or licensors
Bats are believed to have been the original carriers on the coronavirusCredit: Getty Images – Getty
She said some the bugs were similar to Covid-19, which is believed to have made the jump at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Spreading out from the city like wildfire, almost one year on the coronavirus has gone on to kill 1.5million people worldwide and infected 66million.
“We should not only search for them in China, but also in south Asian countries,” Dr Shi said.
She added: “We think these viruses have a high risk of interspecies transmission to human.”
Dr Shi, from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, believes the coronavirus passed to another animal from bats before eventually reaching humans.
The expert was speaking at a webinar organised by the National Academy of Medicine and the Veterinary Academy of France.
It comes as two teams – one from the Word Health Organization and one organised by the Lancet medical journal – prepare to head to China.
They are tasked with trying to trace the real origins of the pandemic.
China has faced significant scrutiny over its role in allowing the virus to spread, with accusations of cover-ups and the downplaying of data.
Dr Shi herself has been at the centre of a number of allegations and she was forced to deny that the virus may have come from her lab.
She is one of the world’s top researchers into coronavirus, but was was reportedly silenced by the Communist Party after she unravelled the Covid-19 gene.
Medical workers take swab samples from residents in WuhanCredit: AFP or licensors
Dr Shi was reportedly recalled to her lab in December after her team identified a new coronavirus that was linked to horseshoe bats.
Gao Yu, a Chinese journalist, said of Shi: “We learned later her institute finished gene-sequencing and related tests as early as January 2 but was muzzled.”
Shi has also described being initially warned against disclosing her findings to anyone.
And she later admitted she initially feared the virus could have accidentally leaked from her laboratory.
However, she then claimed she felt enormous relief when it was established that Covid-19’s genetic sequence did not match any she had previously studied.
But she continues to be dogged by rumours and conspiracy theories.
At one point she even had to deny reports she had tried to “defect with secret files” from the Wuhan science hub.
Coronavirus is believed to have jumped to humans at a so-called ‘wet market’ in WuhanCredit: AFP or licensors
Wuhan faces being placed under the microscope of the world’s scientific community who are still seeking answers on Covid-19.
Questionable studies emerging in China have appeared to try and bat away blame.
The first known case of Covid-19 was detected in Wuhan last December.
Chinese Communist Party officials notified WHO on New Year’s Eve, but then are accused of downplaying the seriousness of the outbreak.
Damning leaked documents unveiled this week showed that China appears to have lied about the virus to “protect” its image.
The explosive secret data, from China’s own health chiefs, appears to expose a catalogue of cover-ups and blunders.
CNN reported it had been handed a treasure trove of information, contained in a 117-page report marked “internal document, please keep confidential”.
Dr Shi Zheng-Li warned about the threat of another unknown bat coronavirus jumping to humans
Throughout January, the World Health Organisation publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus.
It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.”
Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information, said the Associated Press.
Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on January 11.
It is claimed China deliberately didn’t warn public of the looming pandemic for six key days – allowing millions to travel for the Lunar New Year Celebrations.
WHO has been accused of failing to place scrutiny on China, but it is reported the organisation was also kept in the dark by the Communist Party.
China now claims to have mostly returned to normal since the pandemic, with scenes of packed nightclubs, theme parks and sports games now common again.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the rest of the world as the first batches of the coronavirus vaccine are starting to be delivered to doctors.