TUESDAY, April 28, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Bats and coronaviruses have evolved together for millions of years, researchers report.
In a new study, researchers compared different types of coronaviruses that live in 36 species of bats found on islands in the western Indian Ocean and coastal areas of the African nation of Mozambique.
The researchers found that 8% of all bats they tested carried a coronavirus, and that different groups of bats had their own unique strains of coronavirus.
“We discovered that there is a deep evolutionary history between bats and coronaviruses,” said study co-author Steve Goodman, a field biologist at the Field Museum in Chicago.
“Developing a better understanding of how coronaviruses evolved can help us build public health programs in the future,” he explained in a museum press release.
The study was published April 23 in the journal. Scientific reports.
All animals have viruses that live within them. Bats, and several other groups of mammals, are natural carriers of coronaviruses. These coronaviruses do not appear to be harmful to bats, but they can pose a threat to other animals if they jump between species, the researchers said.
There are a large number of different coronaviruses, and most are not known to infect humans and do not pose a known threat.
The coronaviruses carried by the three dozen species of bats in this study are different from those causing COVID-19, but learning about coronaviruses in bats in general can improve understanding of the coronavirus causing the current pandemic, according to the authors of the study.
The researchers also emphasized that even though bats carry coronaviruses, they should not be harmed or killed in the wrong attempt to protect human health.
“There is abundant evidence that bats are important for the functioning of the ecosystem, be it for flower pollination, fruit dispersal or the consumption of insects, particularly insects that are responsible for the transmission of different diseases to humans”, Goodman said.
“The good they do for us exceeds any negative potential,” he emphasized.