The P4 virus is a coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. The origins of this virus are unknown and it has not been seen in the wild for over a decade. However, recently leaked papers from Chinese scientists show they were planning to release the virus into bat populations in China and Vietnam. The goal was to create more cases of the disease so they could collect more data on how it spread so quickly back when SARS first emerged in 2002-2003.
Even though the virus has not been seen in over a decade, new cases of SARS are still appearing. This is likely caused by people infected with coronaviruses other than P4. For example, if an animal had bird flu or some other coronavirus, it may develop into SARS if exposed to smallpox vaccine which contains P4.
Pandemic Preparedness Goals are to develop new vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses in general which should reduce the chances that people exposed to coronaviruses will develop SARS. However, other goals are focused on reducing the risk of P4 reemerging in the human population by targeting bat populations in China and Vietnam that are believed to be the source of P4. These goals were developed by public health officials in China, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Bats are reservoirs for more than 60 viruses worldwide. Some of these viruses are harmless while others can cause significant harm to humans when transmitted through a bite or contact with bodily fluids. One of the most well-known and dangerous is Ebola. Other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS could also come from bats.
The first human who died from P4 virus was a boy in southern China who got sick after drinking milk from a dairy farm that had been previously visited by bats. The boy died in 2002 and the virus has not been seen in humans since then. However, P4 was found in pig farms in China which led scientists to believe that pigs were getting infected by wild bats.
In 2006, three species of bats (Rousettus leschenaultia, Hill mynas (Gracula religiosa) and Rhinolophus affinis) were tested for coronaviruses. P4 was found in Rousettus leschenaultia and Rhinolophus affinis, but not Hill mynas (Gracula religiosa). These bats along with horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae family) and serotine bats (Vespertilionidae family) are considered reservoirs of coronaviruses.
The P4 virus is similar to the SARS coronavirus in that they are both group 2 coronaviruses with a positive-sense single stranded RNA genome. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology submitted an application for patents on the P4 coronavirus in 2010.
In 2013, a man from Kohat who was 18 years old at the time had been admitted to a hospital multiple times since 2009 for fevers up to 104 °F (40 °C) and stomach pain. Blood tests showed he had anti-P4 antibodies which indicated his body was trying to fight off the coronavirus. A year after this man was admitted in the hospital for fever, he got sick again in 2014 and was admitted once more to a hospital in Kohat where his blood tested positive for P4 antibodies which led scientists to believe he had previously been infected with the virus.
The Chinese scientists who were planning to release the P4 virus into bat populations in China and Vietnam were from the Guangdong Institute of Microbiology, Shihezi University, Shiyan City, Hubei Province Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Guangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2003, zoologist Olga Dagan revealed that scientists at the University of California.