A top Chinese virologist has warned that newly discovered viruses are “just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the potential threat humans face from infectious diseases.
Shi Zhengli, the deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who has been dubbed “bat woman” due to her team’s work on SARS-like coronaviruses in these animals, made the remarks on Monday in an interview with Chinese state TV station CGTN. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have originated in bats, with another animal thought to have acted as an intermediary host.
Shi said her team’s 15 years of work on these pathogens has shown other coronaviruses could pose a threat to humans. “The unknown viruses that we have discovered are actually just the tip of the iceberg,” Shi said, according to a translation by CGTN. “If we want to protect humans from viruses or avoid a second outbreak of new infectious diseases, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and then give early warnings.