Bats, coronaviruses evolving together
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. 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.
- 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.
- We found that there's a deep evolutionary history between bats and coronaviruses, said study co-author Steve Goodman from Chicago's Field Museum.
- Developing a better understanding of how coronaviruses evolved can help us build public health programs in the future, Goodman said.
- 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, the scientists cautioned, adding that learning about these viruses in bats can help better understand the pandemic causing virus.
- They said that all animals have viruses living inside them, and bats, as well as a range of other mammal groups, happen to be natural carriers of coronaviruses.
- 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.