Researchers in Thailand have been trekking through the countryside to catch bats in their caves in an effort to help trace the origins of the coronavirus.
Initial research has already pointed to bats as the source of the virus that has afflicted more than 20.5 million people and caused the deaths of 748,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The closest match to the coronavirus has been found in horseshoe bats in Yunnan in southern China. Thailand has 19 species of horseshoe bats but researchers said they have not yet been tested for the new coronavirus.
Thai researchers hiked up a hill in Sai Yok National Park in the western province of Kanchanaburi to set up nets to trap some 200 bats from three different caves.
The team from the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Center took saliva, blood, and stool samples from the bats before releasing them.
The team was headed by Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, the centre’s deputy chief, who has studied bats and diseases associated with them for more than 20 years.
Supaporn said it is likely the researchers will find the same virus that causes COVID-19 in Thailand’s bats.
“The pandemic is borderless. The disease can travel with bats. It could go anywhere,” Supaporn said.