What animal is most likely to host the next deadly coronavirus?
With the Covid-19 pandemic fueling a sense of urgency, researchers are finding new ways to predict the answer to that question.
“We are thinking about the next one,” says Maya Wardeh of the University of Liverpool, one of the authors of a paper in the journal Nature Communications that found there are far more mammals that can be infected with multiple coronaviruses than previously known.
A number of countries around the world are involved in or fund programs to test wild animals that have been linked to past outbreaks or are considered high risk, such as bats and rodents. Samples are collected and sequenced to identify novel viruses including those with the potential to infect humans. There are also efforts under way, including one at Ohio State University, to test domestic, wild, zoo and livestock animals to see whether they can get SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes Covid-19 infections.
The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked additional strategies to better quantify risks, make more precise predictions and then home in on which animals require closer surveillance.