Shi Zhengli warned in a paper that there are 20 highly risky coronavirus species
China's famous virologist Shi Zhengli, also known as ‘Batwoman', has warned that another coronavirus outbreak is “highly likely” to take place in the future, South China Morning Post reported. The virologist in a recent research paper, titled 'Assessment and sero-diagnosis for coronaviruses with risk of human spillover' warned that the world must be prepared for another disease, just like COVID-19, because "if a coronavirus caused diseases to emerge before, there is a high chance it will cause future outbreaks."
In the study, Ms Zhengli and colleagues from the Wuhan Institute of Virology evaluated the human spillover risk of 40 coronavirus species. They found that half of these species are ''highly risky''. Of these, six are already known to have caused diseases that infected humans, while there is evidence that a further three caused disease or infected other animal species.
''It is almost certain that there will be future disease emergence and it is highly likely a [coronavirus] disease again,'' the study warned.
The study was based on an analysis of viral traits, including population, genetic diversity, host species, and any previous history of zoonosis, SCMP reported. Further, the study also identified hosts of the pathogen including natural hosts like bats and rodents, or possible intermediate hosts including camels, civets, pigs, or pangolins.
However, other Chinese virologists dismissed the claims, while some others were reluctant to comment on Ms Zhengli's latest findings.
Meanwhile, another scientist from China's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the publication on condition of anonymity that ''Chinese authorities are downplaying COVID-19, and some cities have stopped releasing infection data.''
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been under increased scrutiny, with some US politicians promoting the theory that COVID-19 originated from an accidental leak from the lab. However, the head of US intelligence said there is no evidence for the claim, as per an AFP report.
In May this year, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief also remarked that the world must get ready for the next pandemic, ''Disease X'', which might be "even deadlier" than Covid-19. According to WHO website, the term "represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease".
It could be a new agent - a virus, a bacterium, or a fungus - without any known treatments. The WHO started using the term in 2018. A year later, COVID-19 began to spread across the world.