Scientists from Saudi Arabia and the United States have found the MERS coronavirus in a bat in Saudi Arabia.
The scientists are reporting the finding in a paper published online today.
While bats have been suspected to be the reservoir of the new virus, this is the first time a match for the human virus has been found in an animal.
Lead author Dr. Ziad Memish, the Saudi deputy minister of health, says bats have always been suspected to be the original source of the virus, but there are probably other players of the chain of transmission that have yet to be discovered.
"There must be something in the middle," Memish said during a talk on MERS in Washington, D.C., that was organized and webcast by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Health Security.
"Is it food? Is it (an) other animal reservoir? That's something to be determined."
Other scientists recently reported finding antibodies to the MERS virus in camels in Oman and in the Canary Islands, off North Africa. While that is a clue that the animals are susceptible to the virus, it's not yet known if they play a role in spreading the virus to people.
The virus discovered in the bat is an identical match to the human virus, says the new paper, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The virus was found in a bat of the Taphozous perforatus species.Follow the link and you'll learn that this is better known as the Egyptian Tomb Bat, and is an endangered species.