The risk of seeing a new pathogen appear from nature and transmissible to humans is well understood by scientists. This is why they closely monitor the various viruses spotted around the world.
Among them, a team from the Washington State University’s Paul G. Allen School for Global Health has recently pointed out the harmful potential of a virus belonging to the same family of coronaviruses – the sarbecoviruses – than SARS-CoV-2.
Unlike hundreds of sarbecoviruses discovered in recent years, mainly in Asia in bats, Khosta-2, discovered in Russia, does indeed have worrying characteristics.
“ Much like SARS-CoV-2, it is able to use its spike protein to infect cells by attaching to a receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, which is found in human cells. », explain the American researchers.
Another concern: neither the serum of people vaccinated against Covid-19, nor that of infected patients, offers protection against this new virus.
Danger of association
“Fortunately, this new virus lacks certain genes necessary for pathogenesis in humans,” says Michael Letko, virologist and main author of this work. In other words, it would not have everything necessary to trigger, as it is, a disease in our organism.
However, there is nothing to be reassured about. There is a real risk that this virus will recombine, that is to say associate with that of Covid-19, which has developed everything necessary to make humans sick. In effect, “SARS-CoV-2 may very well return to the wild and associate with a virus like Khosta-2 which has the potential to become an even more dangerous virus”, he adds.
This is why Michael Letko and his colleagues are urging the search for more broad-spectrum vaccines. “ We need to develop universal vaccines to protect against sarbecoviruses in general, rather than working on known SARS-CoV-2 variants,” he concludes.