China's so-called 'batwoman' has issued a stark warning that deadly Covid variants are coming.

Wuhan-based virologist Shi Zhengli earned the moniker after working with bats found the subtropical areas of China for 16 years.

Zhengli is one of the world's top researchers on coronaviruses and has discovered dozens of deadly SARS-like viruses in bat caves.

She studied samples taken from some of the first people to become infected with the new and then-mysterious respiratory illness in China in December and found it was similar to SARS.

Now, in a new interview, she has warned that more deadly variants of Covid could sweep the globe amid fears of a catastrophic fresh mutation.

The P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan (

Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking to People's Daily the scientist said: "As the number of infected cases has just become too big, this allowed the novel coronavirus more opportunities to mutate and select.

"New variants will continue to emerge."

It comes after claims that a new Covid mutant could emerge which could kill more than a third of the people it infects.

Documents published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said that future strains of the novel coronavirus could be as deadly as MERS.

In such a scenario, the virus could kill 35 per cent of those it infects.

The panel, which advises the government on its pandemic response, warned that such mutations are most likely to occur when the virus is widely spread - as it is currently in the UK.

Claims had emerged that the virus came from a Wuhan lab (

Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Dr Shi Zhengli denied claims that have surfaced that the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan.

She told the New York Times: "My lab has never conducted or cooperated in conducting gain-of-function experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses."

She said that claims the lab bolstered the virus and kept information about it's spread secret were "speculation rooted in utter distrust" and said: "This is no longer a question of science."

She added: "I'm sure that I did nothing wrong. So I have nothing to fear."

In a text message she was reported to have said: "I don’t know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist."

She also denied recent reports that three researchers from her institute had sought treatment at a hospital in November 2019 for flu-like symptoms before the first Covid cases were reported.

The city was at the centre of the initial outbreak in December 2019.