Fifteen years ago, scientists discovered a bat cave in southern China that carries coronaviruses similar to new crowns, SARS and MERS. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit group that monitors wildlife infectious diseases, says wild bats in caves are a rich gene pool for SARS-like coronaviruses.
One of the 500 virus strains discovered in 2004 has a 96% similarity to the new crown. Daszak points out that what he wants to say is that these strains have a high risk of human transmission. Bats carry far more zoonotic viruses than other mammals, many of which have caused human diseases and outbreaks. A 2019 study warned that bats could lead to the next coronavirus outbreak because they live in a geographical location close to a large city. The bat cave, discovered in 2004, is only 60 km from Kunming. Daszak said that after SARS, researchers did not find many bats in the wildlife market, but noted that people still catch wild bats and sell them directly to restaurants. They tested bat droppings collected from caves, and laboratory tests found viruses that could infect human cells. They also collected samples of people living near bat caves and found that 3 percent of them developed antibodies to the virus, which showed that the virus had infected humans in the past. This is a red flag. But because of a lack of funding, scientists have not continued to study the virus. They only warned the government of the high risk of the virus, warning local residents.