Scientists analyzed the genome of bats from the Chinese province of Yunnan and found four close relatives of the new type of coronavirus.
Scientists examined more than 400 samples of biological fluids from bats collected between May 2019 and November 2020 in Yunnan province.
Experts looked for scraps of RNA viruses and tried to decipher their partial or complete genomes. Among them were betacoronaviruses, which include SARS-CoV-2, and alphacoronaviruses. Traces of coronaviruses were detected in 40% of samples.
Biologists knew only a small fraction of the viruses found. The four beta-coronaviruses detected were similar to SARS-CoV-2.
One of these viruses, RpYN06, was found to be as close as possible to the human version of SARS-CoV-2 in genome structure. It was almost not inferior in this respect to the RaTG13 virus, which is considered the direct ancestor of the new type of coronavirus.
Experts have not yet been able to say exactly where and when SARS-CoV-2 appeared, as well as which animals became its intermediate carriers.