Scientists study about bats to find early signs of the next pandemic

The researchers in Brazil are on a mission: capture bats and help prevent the next global pandemic. The goal now is to identify other viruses that may be highly contagious and lethal in humans, and to use that information to devise plans to stop them from ever infecting people — to forestall the next potential global disease outbreak before it gets started.

An outbreak in one place endangers the entire globe, just as the coronavirus did and the Brazilian team is just one among many worldwide, racing to minimise the risk of a second pandemic this century. A 2019 study found that of viruses originating from the five most common mammalian sources — primates, rodents, carnivores, ungulates, and bats — those from bats are the most virulent in humans. Probing the secrets of bat immune systems may help scientists understand more about when bats do shed viruses, as well as providing hints for possible future medical treatment strategies, said Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist at McMaster University in Canada. Bats play vital roles in ecosystems as they consume insects like mosquitos, pollinate plants like agave, and disperse seeds. A better approach to minimize disease risk, Frank said, is simply to minimize contact between wild bats and people and livestock.