The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has a likely connection to bats and the next viral outbreak probably will too be from Bats, unless the scientists take immediate steps to learn more about bats.
The connection of bats with Nipah, Sosuga, henddra and other viruses are already known but no one has gone deep into the bats’ molecular biology as well as their ecology, which is very much needed, said Michael Letko (assistant professor of molecular virology at Washing State University’s Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health) in a recent study. He said this in Nature Reviews Microbiology Journal.
He said that most of the pathogens in recent times have their origins in bats. Though some studies were conducted in some Bat species, a lot has to be studied on these mammals, who are the carriers of the deadly viruses, he added.
A bat, which comes to more than 1,400 species, has an extremely diverse mammalian order. Bats are also not lab animals like rats and mice. Letko said that bats are found everywhere and viral infection was almost inevitable with human encroachment on their habitation.
In the research paper, Letko along with WSU assistant professor Stephanie Seifert and Vincent Munster of Rocky Mountain Laboratories has emphasised the importance of a broader research into the smallest, molecular level and on the broader macro-level of the environment.
They have called for using the latest genetic technologies to understand how viruses can be transmitted. This could help in increasing the ability to develop drugs quickly after a pathogen was discovered found. Even a vaccine could be developed at the earliest, they noted.
Letko was the first to provide functional laboratory data on Coronavirus in February. This had helped researchers to identify on the effective drug that could be of use against the deadly virus.
He also said that better understanding of the ecology of the bats could help in preventing the spread of many viruses. They noted that vaccinating horses in Australia would help in stopping Hendra virus, which was spreading from fruit bats to horses and then on to humans. In Bangladesh, putting lids on palm sap containers would keep the Bats away, preventing prevent human outbreaks of Nipah virus.