Humans are now the dominant SARS-CoV-2 host species. The danger is that SARS-CoV-2 could spread from humans to other animal species, termed reverse zoonosis, as is suspected for white-tailed deer in the United States. The promiscuous infection of various host species by the sarbecoviruses means that future spillovers of SARSr-CoVs from wildlife are very likely, and current vaccines may not be protective against novel variants. The sampling intensity of sarbecoviruses needs to be urgently increased to gain a better understanding of this spillover risk.The recent finding of sarbecoviruses, not dissimilar to SARS-CoV-2, dispersed in Southeast Asia emphasizes the urgency of monitoring coronavirus diversity. Humanity must work together beyond country borders to amplify surveillance for coronaviruses at the human–animal interface to minimize the threat of both established and evolving variants evading vaccines and to stop future spillover events.
Six weeks before the Wuhan outbreak, in African Swine Fever’s (ASF) Other Impacts; Pharmaceuticals, Bushmeat, and Food Insecurity, I even speculated that China’s ASF outbreak could lead to increased `bushmeat’ consumption, which in turn might spark another SARS-like outbreak (one of the possible scenarios discussed in today’s article).
Admittedly, more of a lucky guess than prescience, since we’ve been expecting a SARS redux – or the emergence of Virus X – for years.
Regardless of how SARS-CoV-2 emerged, today’s perspective is a reminder that nature’s laboratory is open 24/7 – and future spillovers are all but guaranteed. We either prepare as if it will happen, or we will be caught flat footed and unprepared again.