Bats carry deadly virus, scientists have given remedies

Bats carry deadly virus, scientists have given remedies

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Crucial to any response is a better understanding of bats, their behavior and their habitats, especially once an evolution approaches. Historically, development often meant clearing an area and getting rid of any obstacles that stood in the way.

Scientists say efforts to eradicate bats often backfire.

That’s what happened in 2007 after four miners in southern Uganda contracted Marburg, a virus that can cause a rapidly progressing disease that can end in bleeding and organ failure. One miner died.

Researchers at the time found that the shafts the miners worked in contained thousands of Egyptian fruit bats, the only species known to have taken to Marburg. As the virus spread, miners trapped thousands of bats with nets and tried to seal the mine with reeds and other barriers.

Five years later, Marburg was attacked again, leaving 15 people sick in another nearby town.

Investigators scoured the area, but they found Egyptian fruit bats in only one place: the mine. Presumably, it was remembered by survivors or descendants of the original bats. What worried the researchers, however, was that bats in the new colony, which they tested for Marburg, had a higher prevalence of the virus than they had tested in the mine, the scientists wrote in a 2014 study. did. ,

It is not clear why, but scientists speculate that new generations of bats may be more susceptible to carrying the virus. Among other factors, the scientists say, stress between bats may have caused them to release more pathogens.

Biologists say they are only just beginning to learn about the complex rules and behaviors that govern how bat colonies interact and reproduce, no matter how human interference may affect them.

Enrico Bernard, a zoologist at Brazil’s Federal University of Pernambuco, began counting bats in 2014 with students in Meu Rei, which is home to at least 10 species in the arid Caatinga region of Brazil’s northeast. Over the next four years, they saw major fluctuations in population.

They were particularly surprised by the large changes in the numbers of Pteronotus gymnonotus, an insectivorous species more commonly known as the large naked-backed bat.

Using genetic testing on bats from across species in nine caves along a 700 km trajectory, the researchers found that all the animals were part of the same breeding colony. The animals move between different caves at different times of the year, possibly for breeding reasons or to follow fluctuations in the number of insects in the area.

The finding, Bernard told Reuters, shows the importance of long-term and large-scale monitoring. It also shows how difficult it can be to delineate some places for protection while allowing development around others. “I can’t think of separate caves anymore,” he said. “I have to think at the landscape scale.”

Research in Australia is also deepening scientists’ understanding of bats. And it suggests various ways that humans might try to influence animals’ behavior – potential solutions that would reduce the risk of spillover.

In Australia, occasional outbreaks of Hendra, another bat-borne disease, have infected horses and occasionally humans in recent decades. Of the seven people found infected, four died.

Scientists identified the black flying fox, a large bat that feeds mostly on nectar and fruits, as the natural carrier of Hendra virus. Flying foxes travel long distances in search of food, making seeds and pollinating trees along the way. But in winter, when natural sources are more scarce, bats increasingly seek food near farms and cities.

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