Khosta-2: contamination, resistance to vaccines … what we know about this virus close to Covid-19 discovered in Russia

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Researchers claim to have discovered a new type of coronavirus in Russia, “Khosta-2”. This virus was carried by bats. This is likely to be able to contaminate humans, while resisting the vaccines currently used to fight against Covid-19. The Midi Dispatch make the point.

Almost three years have passed since the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 in China, the origin of Covid-19. While the pandemic has not disappeared, researchers at the State University of Washington, in the United States, have taken a close interest in a new virus, called Khosta-2. In a study published in the journal “PLoS Pathogens”, last Wednesday, September 21, the researchers return in detail to this discovery. The Midi Dispatch make the point.

What is “Khosta-2”?

According to scientists, this is a “sarbecovirus”, a particular type of virus which includes several coronaviruses, linked to “severe acute respiratory syndrome”. This virus would have “troubling characteristics” close to the SARS-CoV-2 which is now actively circulating in the world.

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Khosta-2: what is this strange Russian virus, close to Covid-19, which would resist vaccines?

In practice, most sarbecoviruses infect bats, but this type of virus is also found in civet cats or even badgers. This one has been identified in bats in Russia. Scientists say the virus was already circulating there in 2020.

Can humans be infected?

In recent years, scientific studies on sarbecoviruses have multiplied: these have so far affirmed that the virus was incapable of contaminating human cells. This would not be the case with the “Khosta-2”.

“We found that the Khosta-2 virus spike protein could infect cells like human pathogens, using the same entry mechanisms,” the researchers explain in this study. According to the first elements of research, this virus is however not likely to cause serious forms.

Are vaccines effective against this virus?

Washington State University researchers claim that the “Khosta-2” virus would be resistant “to neutralization by the serum of individuals who had been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2”: “Our results further demonstrate that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccination campaigns against SARS-CoV-2”, warn the researchers.

The question of a virus “circulating in nature”, “able to bind to human receptors” and which cannot be “neutralized by current vaccine responses” is worrying according to scientists.

How to explain the discovery of this new virus?

The discovery of “Khosta-2” could be linked to the repeated mutations of SARS-CoV-2. The virus may have evolved into a mutant. “When related coronaviruses enter the same animal and the same cells, they can then recombine and produce a new virus”, warns Michael Letko, professor at the University of the State of Washington, in the columns of the Time.

The researcher fears, among other things, that these mutations will give rise to two new “more virulent” and “resistant to vaccine immunity” viruses. The researcher thus calls for the development of universal vaccines which make it possible to protect humans against all forms of sarbecovirus.

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