FIVE new viruses with the potential to jump to humans have been identified in bats in southern China, according to new research.
Chinese and Australian scientists took samples from 149 bats in China and found one new Covid-like virus which could transmit to humans.
The scientists also discovered five other viruses which are “likely” to cause disease in humans and animals.
The research suggests a new wave of “lethal” infections could be on the horizon, one expert has said.
Covid-19 has now been circulating for over two years and millions of Brits have been vaccinated or have some sort of protection from prior infection.
The current Omicron strain has been proven to be milder than others and globally, many are learning to live with the bug.
But this new development adds to a growing body of evidence that sarbecoviruses – members of the coronavirus family – are rife across Asia and eastern Europe.
Professor Tom Solomon, of The Pandemic Institute in Liverpool, told The Sun the study showed that bats can simultaneously be infected with several viruses.
“This raises the possibility that two different viruses may “recombine” or mix to form a new virus, which could be even more lethal,” he explained.
He added: “We know that some of the most deadly viruses of humans emerge from bats.
“This includes the Covid-19 virus, Nipah virus which causes encephalitis, a deadly brain infection, and even some rabies viruses.
“This new study which examines viruses in individual bats, showed the wide range of viruses bats carry.”
Separate research, published this year revealed that another Covid-like virus had been discovered in a bat.
The exact origins of the virus – known as Khosta-2 – are not clear and are currently being investigated by a team at the World Health Organization (WHO).