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New Delhi: The possibility that a SARS-like virus could re-emerge in China was warned by researchers in 2007. Experts had claimed that the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats in southern China is a "time bomb".

The outbreak of coronavirus and SARS in China is believed to have passed from bats and other animals to humans in a wet market.

"The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the re-emergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored," a University of Hong Kong research paper said.

American Society for Microbiology had published this research paper titled 'Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Re-emerging Infection' report in October 2007.

The research paper said that the rapid economic growth in southern China has led to an increasing demand for animal proteins, including those from exotic game food animals such as civets. Large numbers and varieties of these wild game mammals in overcrowded cages and the lack of biosecurity measures in wet markets allowed the jumping of this novel virus varies from animals to humans.

"The small re-emergence of SARS in late 2003 after the resumption of the wildlife market in southern China and the recent discovery of a very similar viruses in horseshoe bats, bat SARS-CoV, suggested that SARS can return if conditions are fit for the introduction, mutation, amplification, and transmission of this dangerous virus.

The paper was authored by Vincent C.C. Cheng, Susanna K.P. Lau, Patrick C.Y. Woo, and Kwok Yung Yuen of the Department of Microbiology, Research Centre of Infection and Immunology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.