Researchers believe SARS-CoV-2 owes its appearance to climate change, which has dramatically increased the number of bat species in China.
Global warming in southern China has caused changes in the natural environment, which has led to a sharp increase in the species diversity of bats – the primary reservoir for SARS-CoV-2. This is stated in the study by a group of scientists from Great Britain, Germany and the United States, which was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
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Global climate change – rising temperatures, more sunlight and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – have changed the composition of vegetation and the natural habitat of animals in many regions of the world.
A large-scale ecological study in southern China and the surrounding areas of Myanmar and Laos has revealed a significant change in the type of vegetation in these areas over the past century. This created favorable habitat for bats.
It is known that the number of new viruses originating in the population of bats directly depends on the number of local species of these animals. Scientists estimate that 40 new species of bats have appeared in Yunnan alone since the beginning of the 20th century, potentially bringing with them about 100 types of coronaviruses. Due to warming and the associated rapid growth of rainforests, the region, according to researchers, has become a “global hotspot” for the emergence of new zoonotic pathogens.
In the global population of bats, scientists estimate that today there are about 3000 types of coronavirus. Each species of these animals carries an average of 2.7 coronaviruses. Most coronaviruses carried by bats are not transmitted to humans. But the increase in the number of bat species in a particular region increases the likelihood that a dangerous human pathogen will be born there.
The study found that over the past century, climate change has also led to an increase in bat species in regions of Central Africa and parts of Central and South America.
Earlier it was reported that WHO experts arrived in China to find out the origin of the coronavirus COVID-19.