12 years before the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists warned, in a study published by Clinical Microbiology Reviews in 2007, that the situation in China was a “time bomb” for a dangerous virus outbreak. Their cause for concern was due to the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, with the crowded wet markets packed with wild game and lacking biosecurity, and the common presence of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, in combination with the well-known ability of coronaviruses to undergo genetic recombination.
Coronaviruses are well known to undergo genetic recombination, which may lead to new genotypes and outbreaks. 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 reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.
Another key quote comes from the introduction:
The small reemergence of SARS in late 2003 after the resumption of the wildlife market in southern China and the recent discovery of a very similar virus 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 study was called “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection” and it was published in October 2007 by Clinical Microbiology Reviews, a journal by the American Society for Microbiology. You can access the full study here.
Reference: “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection” by Vincent C. C. Cheng, Susanna K. P. Lau, Patrick C. Y. Woo and Kwok Yung Yuen, 12 October 2007, Clinical Microbiology Reviews.