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Monash University

Monash Experts: Deadly viruses may become more common in the future

Monash University experts are available for comment on a study published in Nature Microbiology by Pennsylvania State University that found the virus may have first evolved in bats as early as 1948.

Dr Greg Moseley, Virologist, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Contact details: +61 447 466 654 or


  • Huge numbers of viruses exist in bats. While many are unable to infect humans, the inevitable fact is that many can, and do; many more have the potential to undergo change gaining the ability to infect humans. Unfortunately, the new emergence of animal viruses in humans is not only likely it may become more common.


  • By whatever means SARS-CoV-2 entered human populations, the emergence of a new viral pathogen from bats cannot be considered a surprise. In Australia alone, infections of humans by Hendra, Lyssavirus, and Menangle virus show that there are human pathogenic viruses in bat populations. On the international front, SARS and Ebola were clear warning signs.


  • Because of the huge numbers of viruses and diversity, there will be many more with potential to become established in humans, including coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 is in many ways just another virus that has infected human populations; importantly, SARS-CoV-2 resulted in sustained uncontained person-to-person transmission.


  • We need increased research including analysis of the diversity of viruses in animal populations and human disease surveilance to detect and identify emerging diseases. We need awareness at a global level of how our interactions with animals/ecosystems can impact health – SARS-CoV-2 is not the only bat virus that can infect us – there are many that may be inapparent or that we have not encountered yet. 


Professor Stephen Turner, Head, Department of Microbiology

Contact details: +61 432 158 030 or 

Read more of Professor Turner’s commentary at Monash Lens


  • Irrespective of the study and which virus would cause it, a pandemic of this magnitude was probably inevitable. Could we have been better prepared?


  • Although this is not a surprise, it is very difficult to determine which of thousands of bat viruses could go on to emerge in humans . 


  • The key aspect to this study is that the key evolutionary step that allows COVID-19 or any of the viruses to transmit between humans is unknown. So while these are predecessors to the bat RaTg13 coronavirus, they do not have the requisite genomic or functional characteristics to infect humans. This means that there is no way of knowing that these viruses would have led to the current SARS-COV2 pandemic.

 For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, please contact the Monash University Media Unit on +61 3 9903 4840 or

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