When the COVID pandemic began last year, researchers went on to look for the source of origin, making a discovery that the virus jumped from a bat to humans.

Now, some scientists are worried that another coronavirus is on the horizon and it will strike again, from either a bat or some other animal, according to NPR. So they have started hunting for a potential source.

Virologist Prof. Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney said, “Coronaviruses are under our feet in rodents. They are above our heads in bats. We live in a kind of coronavirus world.”

Prof. Holmes and his team trapped several hundred bats in one of the sections of the Yunnan province in southern China for the past year, taking samples of the bats’ saliva, urine, and feces.

The team then looked for coronavirus genes inside those samples and found something that is a bit concerning.

Prof. Holmes, who published the findings last week, said, “So in this very small area that we sampled, about 1,100 hectares, there’s an amazing number of bat viruses.”

They found that the bats harbored 24 new coronaviruses, of which, four are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 that causes the COVID-19 infection, and three are closely related to SARS-CoV-1, which caused a smaller outbreak in 2003.

Prof. Holmes explained that the bat species carrying these coronaviruses are common across most of Southeast Asia. He said, “So imagine if you ran our experiment across the whole of Southeast Asia. You’d find an amazing diversity of coronaviruses. And there’s just an enormous number of them.”

“We’re only just starting to scratch the surface,” he added. “The virusphere of coronaviruses is just immense.”

In 2018, scientists at the EcoHealth Alliance tried to answer some questions in communities from southern China, including villages where the bats were found. They drew blood from about 400 people and looked for signs of coronavirus antibodies in their blood.

EcoHealth Alliance a non-governmental organization that protects the people, animals, and the environment from emerging infectious diseases,

In one area, the team found that nearly 3% of people had been infected with an unknown coronavirus in the past few years, according to NPR. Lead author of the 2018 study Dr. Peter Daszak said, “That’s pretty high.”

Dr. Daszak estimates that over a million people are infected with unknown coronaviruses each year.

“It’s happening every day,” he said. “I look at the spillover event a bit like rain or snow. These viruses are getting into and trickling across our populations.”

Dr. Daszak explained that the vast majority of these spillover events do very little, but they give the virus the opportunity to adapt and spread more easily.

Prof. Holmes and Dr. Daszak agree that the next coronavirus outbreak could be on the horizon.

“I think we need to face reality here,” Prof. Holmes said. “Coronavirus pandemics are not a once in a hundred-year event.”

He added, “The next one could come at any time. It could come in 50 years or in 10 years. Or it could be next year.” The article was originally published Saturday on NPR.