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Current Affairs

Bats, Coronavirus evolving together

Date: 24 April 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, noted that while bats do a lot of good for the world such as pollinating plants, eating disease-carrying insects, and dispersing seeds of tropical forest trees, they are also natural carriers of coronaviruses.

 

Background

Different groups of bats have their own unique strains of coronavirus, a family that includes the COVID-19 causing virus, according to a study which reveals that the flying mammal and coronaviruses have been evolving together for millions of years.

 

Details

  • To understand this diverse family of viruses, scientists, including those from Chicago’s Field Museum in the US, compared the different kinds of coronaviruses living in 36 bat species from the western Indian Ocean and nearby areas of Africa.

  • According to the researchers, there are a vast number of types of different coronaviruses, potentially as many as bat species, and most of them are unknown to be transferred to humans and pose no known threat.

  • The coronaviruses carried by the bats part of the study are different from the one behind COVID-19 and learning about these viruses in bats can help better understand the pandemic causing virus.

  • While these coronaviruses don’t appear to be harmful to the bats, the researchers warned that there’s potential for them to be dangerous to other animals if the viruses have opportunities to jump between species.

  • In the study, the researchers assessed the genetic relationships between different strains of coronaviruses and the animals they live in.

  • They took swabs, and in some cases blood samples, from more than a thousand bats representing 36 species found on islands in the western Indian Ocean and coastal areas of the African nation of Mozambique.

  • Scientists said that there is increasing evidence for seasonal variation in the circulation of these viruses in bats, suggesting that this number may significantly vary according to the time of the year.

  • The coronaviruses they carried were genetically different than the strains of other groups of bats found in the same geographical zones, the study noted.

  • In rare cases, the researchers said, bats of different families, genera, and species that live in the same caves and have closely spaced day roost sites shared the same strain of coronavirus.

  • Despite the fact that bats carry coronaviruses, we shouldn’t respond by harming or culling of bats in the name of public health, as the good they do, outweighs potential negatives.

  • There’s abundant evidence that bats are important for ecosystem functioning, whether it be for the pollination of flowers, dispersal of fruits, or the consumption of insects, particularly insects that are responsible for transmission of different diseases to humans.