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How Bats harbouring Viruses do not get sick?

Date: 02 February 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


A study carried out last has revealed the mechanism responsible for bats to harbour numerous viruses without themselves getting affected and also live long.



Bats serves as natural hosts for numerous viruses including Ebola virus, Nipah virus, coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the 2019 novel coronavirus , but rarely has this caused harmul effects in the bats.



  • The reason why bats can harbour these viruses without getting affected is simply because bats can avoid excessive virus-induced inflammation, which often causes severe diseases in animals and people infected with viruses.

  • When pathogens infect humans and mice, the immune system gets activated and typical inflammatory response to fight the microbes is seen.

  • While controlled inflammatory response to fight infection helps keep humans healthy, it can contribute to the damage caused by infectious diseases, and also age-related diseases when the inflammatory response becomes excessive.

  • The researchers found that the inflammatory response is dampened in bats regardless of the variety of viruses that are present and the viral load.

  • This supports an enhanced innate immune tolerance rather than an enhanced antiviral defence in bats. This is in complete contrast to what is seen in mice and humans for disease-causing zoonotic viruses.

  • The researchers found that significantly reduced inflammation in bats was because activation of an important protein, NLRP3, that recognises both cellular stress and viral/bacterial infections was significantly dampened in bat immune cells.

  • The reduced activation of the NLRP3 protein was in turn due to impaired production of mRNA (transcript). Since mRNA production is impaired the NLRP3 protein production gets compromised leading to less amount of the protein being produced.

  • The NLRP3 protein is found as four variants in bats. The researchers found that the function of all the four variants in bats was dampened compared with human NLRP3.

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