The researchers from Thailand started collecting samples of horseshoe bats for testing them for the coronavirus or COVID-19 amid the concerns that they may pose a threat to the local residents, a government statement mentioned on Saturday.

The scientists have a plan to collect 300 bats for three days from a cave located in the Chanthaburi province in the southeastern part of the nation. The bats will be released after the tests get over.

Thailand has 23 species of the horseshoe bat, but there has not been an investigation before. The source of the virus remains a matter of debate after it emerged in China late last year. The World Health Organization (WHO) in April said that all available evidence suggests that it originated in bats in China, but it was not clear how the virus had jumped the species barrier to humans.

Researchers in Thailand to Test Horseshoe Bats for Coronavirus

Coronavirus
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The research team in Thailand includes Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, who identified the country's first case of COVID-19 in January. "The reason we need to investigate the horseshoe bat is that there are reports from China that the COVID-19 virus is similar to the virus found in the horseshoe bat," Supaporn said.

Thailand was the first country outside China to record a case of the virus. It has so far reported 3,134 cases and 58 deaths. Researchers from the National Parks Department, Chulalongkorn Hospital and Kasetsart University entered the cave on Thursday evening and re-emerged in the early hours of Friday with samples of bat blood, saliva and feces.

Investigators were concerned that villagers in the area could be at risk of infection. Locals have been known to eat bats, Supaporn said, adding adequate education and information programs were needed. Local transmissions have waned in recent weeks with new cases coming from Thais returning from overseas.

(With agency inputs)