Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered a novel coronavirus in British bats, for the first time.
However, the team behind the find have stressed that there is no evidence that it has been transmitted to humans, or that it could in future unless it mutates.
The discovery was made when UEA undergraduate student, Ivana Murphy.
She collected bat droppings from more than 50 lesser horseshoe bats in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wales, as part of her final year research dissertation.
The samples were sent for viral analysis at Public Health England, where genome sequencing found a novel coronavirus in one of the bat samples, which the team have named ‘RhGB01’.
Watch a UEA video explaining Ivana Murphy's discovery.
A total of 53 bats were captured, and their faeces collected in sterile bags as part of the research project.
The bats were released immediately after their droppings had been collected.
We weren’t shocked by the results, but I am extremely eager to carry out further research
Ivana has said she now plans to carry out further study of viruses in UK bats after she graduates, because there is much more to understand and discover.