Shi Zhengli, a prominent virologist from China known as ‘Batwoman,’ has issued a cautionary message regarding the substantial likelihood of another coronavirus outbreak in the future, as reported by the South China Morning Post. In her recent research paper titled ‘Assessment and Sero-Diagnosis for Coronaviruses with Risk of Human Spillover,’ she stressed the necessity of global preparedness for a disease akin to COVID-19. Her assertion rests on the premise that if a coronavirus has previously caused the emergence of diseases, it carries a considerable probability of triggering future outbreaks.
In their study, Ms. Zhengli and her colleagues from the Wuhan Institute of Virology evaluated the risk of human spillover for 40 different coronavirus species. Their findings revealed that half of these species hold a substantial potential for causing spillovers into the human population. Among these, six species are already known to have caused diseases in humans, and there is evidence to suggest that three others have caused diseases or infected various animal species.
The study issued a stark warning, stating, “It is almost certain that there will be future disease emergence, and it is highly likely that a [coronavirus] disease will emerge again.”
The research was grounded in an analysis of viral characteristics, encompassing factors such as population, genetic diversity, host species, and any previous history of zoonotic transmission. Furthermore, the study identified potential hosts for the pathogen, including natural hosts such as bats and rodents, along with potential intermediate hosts like camels, civets, pigs, or pangolins.
Nevertheless, some other Chinese virologists have dismissed these assertions, while others have refrained from commenting on Ms. Zhengli’s recent findings.
Meanwhile, an anonymous scientist from China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed the publication that “Chinese authorities are downplaying COVID-19, and some cities have halted the release of infection data.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has faced heightened scrutiny, with certain US politicians advocating the theory that COVID-19 may have originated from an accidental leak from the laboratory. However, the head of US intelligence has stated that there is no evidence to substantiate this claim, according to an AFP report.
In May of this year, the Chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized the imperative for global readiness in the face of the next pandemic, often referred to as “Disease X,” which has the potential to be “even deadlier” than COVID-19. The WHO defines “Disease X” as the acknowledgement that a severe international epidemic could arise from a pathogen not currently recognized to cause human disease – potentially an entirely new agent, such as a virus, bacterium, or fungus, devoid of known treatments. The WHO first introduced this term in 2018, and COVID-19 emerged a year later.