New COVID-like virus found in bats could infect humans, resist vaccines: Study

WASHINGTON : A new SARS-CoV-2-like virus discovered in Russian bats is capable of infecting humans, and is resistant to current vaccines against COVID-19, a study has found.
A team lead by researchers at Washington State University (WSU), US, found spike proteins from the bat virus, named Khosta-2, can infect human cells and is resistant to both the antibody therapies and blood serum from people vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2.
A virus uses the spike protein to enter and infect the human cells. Both Khosta-2 and SARS- CoV-2 belong to the same sub-category of coronaviruses known as sarbecoviruses.
“Our research further demonstrates that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia — even in places like western Russia where the Khosta-2 virus was found — also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2,” said Michael Letko, corresponding author of the study.
The finding, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, highlights the need to develop universal vaccines to protect against sarbecoviruses in general, rather than just against known variants of SARS-CoV-2.
“Right now, there are groups trying to come up with a vaccine that doesn’t just protect against the next variant of SARS-2 but actually protects us against the sarbecoviruses in general,” Letko said.
“Unfortunately, many of our current vaccines are designed to specific viruses we know infect human cells or those that seem to pose the biggest risk to infect us,” the scientist added.
While hundreds of sarbecoviruses have been discovered in recent years, predominantly in bats in Asia, the majority are not capable of infecting human cells. The Khosta-1 and Khosta-2 viruses were discovered in Russian bats in late 2020, and it initially appeared they were not a threat to humans, the researchers said.
“Genetically, these weird Russian viruses looked like some of the others that had been discovered elsewhere around the world, but because they did not look like SARS-CoV-2, no one thought they were really anything to get too excited about,” Letko said. “But when we looked at them more, we were really surprised to find they could infect human cells. That changes a little bit of our understanding of these viruses, where they come from and what regions are concerning,” he added.
The researchers determined Khosta-1 posed low risk to humans, but Khosta-2 demonstrated some troubling traits.
They found that like SARS-CoV-2, Khosta-2 can use its spike protein to infect cells by attaching to a receptor protein, called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), found throughout human cells.
The team then set out to determine if current vaccines protect against the new virus. Using blood serum derived from people vaccinated for COVID-19, the researchers found that Khosta-2 was not neutralised by current vaccines.
They also tested serum from people who were infected with the Omicron variant, but the antibodies, too, were ineffective. Letko said the new virus is lacking some of the genes believed to be involved in pathogenesis in humans.
There is a risk, however, of Khosta-2 recombining with a second virus like SARS-CoV-2.
“When you see SARS-2 has this ability to spill back from humans and into wildlife, and then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals with these properties we really don’t want them to have, it sets up this scenario where you keep rolling the dice until they combine to make a potentially riskier virus,” Letko added. (AGENCIES)
Apple now manufacturing iPhone 14 in India
NEW DELHI, Sept 26:
Apple’s newest phone iPhone 14 will be made in India as the global tech titan bets big on the manufacturing prowess of the world’s second-biggest smartphone market after China.
Cupertino, California-headquartered Apple started manufacturing iPhones in India in 2017 with iPhone SE. Today, Apple manufactures some of its most advanced iPhones in the country including iPhone SE, iPhone 12, iPhone 13 and, now, iPhone 14.
Earlier this month, Apple Inc unveiled its latest iPhone series — the iPhone 14 models – with an improved camera, powerful sensors and satellite messaging feature to send SOS texts in emergencies. The new lineup has four models: iPhone 14, Plus, Pro and ProMax.
According to sources, the Made-in-India iPhone 14 will begin to reach local customers in the next few days. Phones manufactured in India will be both for the Indian market and exports.
The iPhone 14 will be shipped from Foxconn’s Sriperumbudur facility on the outskirts of Chennai. Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and major iPhone assembler.
When contacted, Apple in a statement to PTI said: “We’re excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India.”
“The new iPhone 14 lineup introduces groundbreaking new technologies and important safety capabilities,” it said.
The iPhone 14 was launched on September 7, 2022, and is available to customers in India simultaneously with the US, among other markets, since September 16, 2022.
The iconic brand has a long-standing history in India that started more than 20 years ago. Apple launched its online store in the country in September 2020 and is set to deepen its commitment with the upcoming launch of Apple retail store.
The recent manufacturing expansion builds on several Apple initiatives in the country, including App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru and programmes with local organisations to support renewable energy training and development for communities.
India’s vibrant market is turning out to be the sweetspot for the US tech giant, as the company reported a “near doubling” of revenue in the country in the quarter ended June 2022.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, during earnings call in July had said: “We set June quarter records in the Americas, in Europe and the rest of the Asia Pacific region. We also saw June quarter revenue records in both developed and emerging markets, with very strong double-digit growth in Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam and a near doubling of revenue in India.”
A recent report by JP Morgan on `Apple Supply Chain relocation’ predicted that Apple “is likely to move about 5 per cent of iPhone 14 production to India from late 2022 and reach 25 per cent by 2025”.
It is also forecast that nearly 25 per cent of all Apple products, will be manufactured outside China by 2025 as compared to five per cent at present.
“US-China trade tensions kicked off the production relocation cycle and the search for a `China+1′ manufacturing approach for the Apple supply chain from late 2018,” the report said.
COVID-19 put the brakes on this over the last two years, but with pandemic concerns easing, “we have seen more companies in the Apple supply chain re-accelerating supply chain relocation efforts”, the brokerage said in its report.
“Supply chain risks (such as COVID-19-related lockdowns in Shanghai/Shenzhen) are likely to be a primary driving force for these moves in the next two to three years,” it added.
Southeast and South Asian countries (like India, Vietnam, Thailand) have become preferable locations for geopolitical diversification away from China for Apple food chain vendors, given their lower labor costs, sufficient skilled manpower support and appealing policies and government support, according to JP Morgan analysts.
While a booming market for smartphones has added to India’s sheen, New Delhi’s policy push in the electronics sector has nudged large global suppliers to expand in India, and driven new players to set up base. After tasting success in local smartphone manufacturing, India is moving swiftly to replicate the success with other parts of electronics ecosystem, as it makes solid efforts to cut reliance on imports.
The government has unveiled attractive incentives to spur local production and export of telecom and networking equipment as well as IT products, and a Rs 76,000 crore semiconductor scheme was announced late last year to boost local manufacturing of chips and display panels.
To attract global giants such as Intel and TSMC, the Centre, last week, sweetened the semiconductor package further by increasing the fiscal support for new facilities (across technology nodes) to cover 50 per cent of project cost. (AGENCIES)