Scientists discover new 'Khosta-2' coronavirus species in Russian bats could bind to human cells

  • 24/09/2022

US scientists have found a coronavirus species believed to be related to the one that causes COVID-19 could transmit to human cells.

The virus was found in bats living in western Russia and the scientists behind the research have said it could resist COVID-19 antibodies and vaccines.

Dubbed Khosta-2, the virus was from the same family as SARS-CoV-2 - which has killed more than 6.5 million people since the start of 2020. 

"Khosta-2, a sarbecovirus discovered in Russia, has been shown to interact with the same entry receptor as SARS-CoV-2," said the study published online this week. 

The scientists did not reveal the exact site the new virus was discovered, other than it was near Russia's Sochi National Park.

"In this study, we tested how well the spike proteins from these bat viruses infect human cells under different conditions. We found that the spike from [the] virus, Khosta-2, could infect cells similar to human pathogens using the same entry mechanisms, but was resistant to neutralisation by serum from individuals who had been vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2.

"Our findings further demonstrate that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2," said the peer-reviewed study, published in the PLOS Pathogens medical journal.

However, Khosta-2 wouldn't necessarily infect humans, according to one expert in infectious diseases.

"There are a lot of different things that need to happen for a virus to be able to spill over from animal species into humans," the University of Queensland's Paul Griffin told 7 News.  

"It's not just that binding ability. It then needs to cause disease for it to be something that’s significant."

The virus would also need "to be readily transmissible as well", he told 7 News.