FEB 28, 2018 06:03 AM PST

Bats Host Many Deadly Viruses, Without Getting Ill

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Many different viruses that are extremely deadly when they infect humans are carried around by bats that don't show any sign of disease. Dangerous pathogens including Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Nipah, and SARS viruses are all harbored by otherwise healthy bats. Now researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China have found that bats can live like that by tamping down a cellular pathway that functions in immunity. They are able to maintain a bit of defensive action without causing a massive immune response. The findings have been reported in Cell Host & Microbe.

"We believe there is a balance between bats and the pathogens they carry," explained the senior author of the study, Peng Zhou. "This work demonstrated that in order to maintain a balance with viruses, bats may have evolved to dampen certain pathways."

An immune pathway that fights viruses, the  STING-interferon pathway, is turned down in bats. However, in other kinds of animals like humans and mammals, the immune action against viruses can cause illness. In humans, an active STING pathway has been connected to serious autoimmune disorders. 

"In human history, we have been chasing infectious diseases one after another," noted Zhou, "but bats appear to be a 'super-mammal' to these deadly viruses." 

The scientists have provided some new insight into the way that bats can carefully alter their antiviral defenses to craft a response that is effective but not overwhelming.

The investigators have suggested that this special biology has evolved in an interconnected way with other important features of bats; they are flying mammals with a long lifespan and are a good viral reservoir. That also makes them good for transmitting viruses. 

"Adaptation to flight likely caused positive selection of multiple bat innate immune and DNA damage repair genes," Zhou explained. The adaptations bats made might have influenced some antiviral pathways including STING, interferon, and others That is another characteristic that has made them good viral reservoirs that are able to strike a tolerable balance in their physiology.



In the video above from biointeractive, follow scientists testing bats for Nipah virus in Bangladesh.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Cell Press, Cell Host & Microbe

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 04, 2018
Drug Discovery
JUL 04, 2018
Increased Dose of Drug 'Rifampin' Effective in Eliminating Tuberculosis Bacterium
According to a randomized controlled trial, a TB drug by the name ‘Rifampin’ was seen to effectively kill TB bacteria in sputum cultures when a...
JUL 23, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 23, 2018
Anglerfish Alert Researchers to a Third Type of Symbiosis
The light from inside the anglerfish bulb is made by bioluminescent bacteria, a symbiotic relationship we know little about....
SEP 02, 2018
Videos
SEP 02, 2018
Identifying Food Poisoning
At least 30 different pathogens (and probably many more) contaminate foods we eat and sicken us in the process....
SEP 20, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 20, 2018
How A Virus Impacts a Bacterium that Infects People
You may have never heard of melioidosis, also known as Whitmore's disease, but it is a scary infection in many parts of the world....
OCT 10, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 10, 2018
It's Time for Your Annual Flu Shot
After last year's flu season killed around 80,000 people, the CDC is trying to get the word out about the flu vaccine....
OCT 12, 2018
Videos
OCT 12, 2018
Don't Mess With Microbes
Researchers demonstrate why antibiotics should not be used casually....
Loading Comments...