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While bats have previously been fingered as a host for SARS, it was believed that the virus jumped from there to weasel-like mammals known as civets, where it went through genetic changes before infecting people. Operating on that belief, China cracked down on markets where bats, civets and other wildlife were sold for food.
The new bat-to-human discovery suggests that the control tactic may have limited effectiveness because a SARS-like virus remains loose in the wild and could potentially spark another outbreak.
"It changes the equation" for public health, said Peter Daszak, a senior author of the study and president of EcoHealth Alliance, a group involved in conservation and global health. "We can close all the markets in China and still have a pandemic."
SARS-like viruses can jump from bats to humans: Study
Paris: Scientists said Wednesday they had found evidence that SARS-like coronaviruses can jump straight from a type of Chinese bat to humans without the need for an intermediary animal "host".
The find has "enormous implications" for public health control, with potentially pandemic viruses present, right now, in bats in China that could cause another outbreak, said the authors of the study published in the journal Nature.