According to the journal Virologica Sinica, Scientists in China have discovered eight never-before-seen viruses on Hainan, a tropical island off the southern coast of the country.
The viruses were found in rats, and experts say they have a “high probability” of infecting humans if they ever cross the species barrier.
The discovery was made by Chinese researchers tasked with preparing the world for future pandemics. After sampling over 700 specimens from rodents on Hainan, eight novel viruses were found.
One of the viruses belongs to the same family as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Virologica Sinica, which is edited by Dr Shi Zhengli, a scientist popularly known as “Bat Woman” for her work on bat coronaviruses says further experiments on the viruses need to be done, to determine their real effects on humans.
Virologica Sinica is published by the Chinese Society for Microbiology (CSM). CSM is linked to the state-affiliated China Association of Science and Technology, which ‘accepts administrative supervision’ from the Chinese Government’s ‘Ministry of Civil Affairs’.
The research examined 682 anal and throat swabs taken from various rodents caught on Hainan between 2017 and 2021. The samples were then categorised by specific rodent species and location on the island.
Experts dubbed one of the new coronaviruses as CoV-HMU-1. The identification of these new viruses is a reminder of the existence of innumerable unknown pathogens, some of which are of potential risk to human beings.