Bats do not produce viruses more likely to infect humans, according to new Scottish research.
A study at the University of Glasgow has shown that bats are no more likely to transmit deadly insects, such as the coronavirus.
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The likelihood that emerging viruses will spread to humans from animals does not depend on the specific animal reservoir of the original virus.
Like the current Covid-19 crisis, SARS-CoV-2, believed to originate from bats, most of the emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic viruses.
These are diseases that spread in animals and infect humans.
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Scientists are now emphasizing the importance of understanding which groups of animals or viruses pose the greatest risk to life.
New research released today, led by the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research and the University of Glasgow Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, shows for the first time that the risk of spreading zoonotic viruses to humans is largely even across various groups of animal reservoirs.
It found that the proportion of zoonotic viruses does not differ significantly between 11 main orders of birds and mammals.
They also discovered that the number of viruses transmitted by animals linked to each animal order appeared to be a consequence of the species richness.
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These results suggest earlier thinking that some animals, such as bats, have an increased risk of spreading the virus to humans. MAY not be specific.
Experts now believe that it is the characteristic traits of viruses, rather than their animals, that will be the most useful predictors of zoonotic transmission.
Dr. Daniel Streicker, principal investigator at the Institute of Biodiversity, said: “The recognition that several high-level viruses originated from bats has generated enormous interest in whether there was anything special in their ecology or immune system that makes their viruses susceptible to disproportionately infect humans.
“Our finding that the number of zoonoses that have emerged from bats is what you would expect from a group of mammals their size casts doubt on the idea that the traits of bats produce viruses with an increased propensity to infect humans.
“To find out if there is anything special about bats, we must now understand whether the bat viruses that jump to humans cause more serious disease or spread better between humans than viruses from other animals, which is currently uncertain. “
Dr. Nardus Mollentze, research assistant at the Center for Virus Research, added: “Although bats will remain and should remain at the center of research on viral reservoirs, as a likely origin of major zoonotic pathogens such than SARS-CoV-2 and Ebolaviruses, our work shows that the proportion and number of zoonotic viruses in bats is not unusual compared to other groups of mammals.
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“This means that ongoing efforts to identify potential future threats to human health by filtering animals for undiscovered viruses will need to focus on a much larger species than is currently the case.
“Our study also highlights the need to find new virus traits that can help us anticipate their zoonotic potential, because knowledge of the current reservoir has not been helpful in predicting whether a virus could infect humans – even when the reservoir is closely related to humans. “
The work was funded by Wellcome, the Royal Society and the Medical Research Council.
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