Bats

December 16, 2020

I came across an AP article in the newspaper that addressed the steps being taken to avert the next pandemic.  While the article focused on work being done in Brazil, it said similar studies were being done around the world.  Despite what some may claim, covid-19 appears to have originated in the open-air flesh markets of Wuhan, China, as the virus crossed from a bat to humans.  Studies on the spread of viruses from the five most common mammalian species found viruses spread from bats are the most virulent in humans.  The researchers begin by trapping representatives of the over 1,400 species of bats and checking to identify other viruses that may be highly contagious or lethal in humans.

My son Alex and I liked to hike and explore the wilderness canyons of Southeastern Utah.  While it was usually hot during the day, the air would cool down at night.  That would make for a perfect sleep lying on the rocks above the dry stream beds.  The cooler temps also brought out an array of night flying insects.  When we first began these trips, I was puzzled by the zipping noises we would hear.  It would be zzzt, zzzt, zzzt, all night long.  I finally realized this was the sound of bats feeding on the abundant insects.  Although we never saw a bat during the day, they were abundant at night.

Another reason to study bats is because of their highly developed immune system.  It seems the ability to recover from the stress caused by flying also gives them protection against pathogens.  It is hoped by studding the bat immune system scientists will learn how bats are able to shed the viruses, providing hints for future medical treatment strategies.  Examining the various species of bats can also identify existing viruses that may be spread by the creatures.  This could give us a head start on the next pandemic.

Thoughts:  An aside to the story on bat pathogens was the reason for increased human interaction with bats.  The increasing destruction and fragmentation of wild habitats across the world are forcing all wildlife into proximity with humans.  This is especially true in the biodiverse areas like tropical forests.  It has long been known that many cures to human ailments are available in these biomes.  Apparently, that goes both ways and pathogens deadly to humans are present as well.  Like most things, more research is needed to shift the good and the bad.  Sadly, funding tends to wax and wane depending on our sense of urgency.  We have been shown this is a world-wide problem.  It is time to launch a world-wide solution.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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