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VIRAL EVOLUTION

Searching for relatives of SARS-CoV-2 in bats

Coronaviruses (CoVs) that are close relatives of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have been found in bats and pangolins, yet the evolutionary history of SARS-CoV-2 is unclear. Zhou et al. report the discovery of bat CoVs from Yunnan province, China, that are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, including a virus that displays high sequence identity to SARS-CoV-2 in most genomic regions. The authors performed metagenomic sequencing on 411 bat samples and assembled 24 CoV metagenomes, including four SARS-CoV-2-related viruses. The closest relative to SARS-CoV-2 was Rhinolophus pusillus virus RpYN06, which has 94.5% sequence identity and, in some genes, has the highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 identified thus far. However, the spike gene has a much lower sequence identity, suggestive of a genomic recombination event, making RpYN06 the second closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 identified to date after the bat CoV RaTG13, highlighting the potentially complex evolutionary history of SARS-CoV-2.

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  1. Zhou, H. et al. Identification of novel bat coronaviruses sheds light on the evolutionary origins of SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses. Cell https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.06.008 (2021)

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Correspondence to Ashley York.

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York, A. Searching for relatives of SARS-CoV-2 in bats. Nat Rev Microbiol 19, 482 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-021-00595-8

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