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New coronavirus found in bats is ‘closest relative’ to SARS-CoV-2 seen yet

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A newly published study suggests that bats have indeed been the originator of SARS-CoV-2, after researchers found a novel coronavirus in the flying mammals that is “the closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 reported to date.”

The research notes the coronavirus known as RmYN02 was discovered in 227 bats – from 20 different species – that were collected from Yunnan Province in China between May and October 2019. Although it does not appear that RmYN02 can bind to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) inhibitors as SARS-CoV-2 does, it is genetically very similar.

“Notably, RmYN02 shares 93.3 [percent] nucleotide identity with SARS-CoV-2 at the scale of the complete virus genome and 97.2 [percent] identity in the 1ab gene, in which it is the closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 reported to date,” the researchers, who hail from a number of different universities and organizations in China and Australia, wrote in the study.

RESEARCHERS FIND 6 NEW CORONAVIRUSES IN BATS

The study has been published in Current Biology.

In April, the World Health Organization reaffirmed that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, originated in bats and denied it was “manipulated or constructed” in a lab.

“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed virus in a lab or somewhere else,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said in comments obtained by Fox News at the time.

Researchers recently found six additional coronaviruses in bats and there may be “thousands” of yet-to-be-discovered coronaviruses that are “present” in the winged-mammals.

Seven strains of coronavirus were also found in bats in Africa, according to a study published earlier this month.

Few have actually publicly claimed the virus was bioengineered, however. Rather, sources have told Fox News that there is increasing confidence the naturally occurring virus was being studied in a Wuhan lab and escaped – as opposed to claims it originated instead in a nearby wet market.

In April, President Trump said the U.S. would halt funding to the WHO while it undergoes a 60-to-90 day investigation into the organization, saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.”

“We have deep concerns over whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said, accusing the WHO of failing to adequately keep the international community apprised of the threat of the coronavirus.

“The WHO failed in this duty, and must be held accountable,” Trump went on. He added that the WHO had ignored “credible information” in December 2019 that the virus could be transmitted from human to human.

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As of Thursday morning, more than 5.72 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 1.69 million of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.

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Fox News’ Bret Baier and Frank Miles contributed to this story.

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