Great Britain

Two million coronavirus-like viruses lurk inside animals that could make Covid-style leap to humans, top scientist warns

TWO million coronavirus-like viruses that lurk inside animals could infect humans in the same way as Covid-19, a leading scientist has warned.

Dr Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, said we must learn lessons from the coronavirus pandemic to avoid future outbreaks of similar viruses.

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Speaking to Sky News, he said: "We analysed the number of unknown viruses that could emerge in future and we estimate there are about 1.7 million of them, of the type that could infect people," he said.

"It's a really significant future threat.

"We only know of a couple of thousand viruses so the vast majority are waiting to emerge in future."

There are still uncertainties as to where Covid-19 originated from, but the main theory is that it jumped from bats to humans in Wuhan, China.

He said that the world should get a head start and begin to unravel the genetic code of viruses living in animals.

'SIGNIFICANT FUTURE THREAT'

"We estimate you could do that over a period of 10 years. You could develop drugs and vaccines.

"You would also find out where they are, and that helps local communities living on the front line of these diseases to change the behaviour that puts them at risk."

According to Nature.com, several scientists worry the virus could be passed back and fourth between animals and people.

Arjan Stegeman, a veterinary epidemiologist at Utrecht University in The Netherlands said: "We need to take actions now to prevent that from happening."

Multiple genetic variants were introduced to the UK, mainly from Italy, Spain and France in February and March this year.

This detailed understanding of the pandemic is only possible with real-time decoding of the 30,000 chemical letters that make up the viruses genetic blueprint.

The machines made by Oxford Nanopore can unravel the genetic material within hours - work that five years ago would have taken months.

Scientists have unravelled Covid-19's genetic code and worked out its structure and there are 10 possible vaccines in clinical trials.

At the University of Liverpool, scientists are looking for mutations in the genetic code - subtle changes that are passed to the copies it makes of itself as it spreads.

University College London is using a machine millions of times more powerful than a home computer to rapidly test chemical structures to see if they block the virus.

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