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article imageAfrican fruit bats carry deadly viruses

By Tim Sandle     Nov 28, 2013 in Environment
A study of African fruit bats has revealed that thirty-four per cent of the bats had been infected with Lagos bat virus and 42 per cent had been infected with henipaviruses.
The bat in question is the African straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum). To measure the degree of infection, the research team tested over 2,000 bats in 12 different countries across Africa, measuring DNA from blood and tissue samples.
The researchers were also able to track how far and wide the bats traveled, and this aspect of the research showed that the bats covered distances of hundreds or thousands of miles, thereby acting as a larger reservoir of infection. One concern from this is that the fruit bats are often hunted for meat, a process which can result in a spill-over of these pathogens from animals to humans.
Of the two diseases the BBC notes, Lagos virus is a disease similar to rabies; and henipaviruses can be spread through contact with urine and feces. However, the research team have pointed out that removing the bats or culling them was not an option, and could even spread the viruses further, as well as damage the ecosystem.
The research was undertaken by the University of Cambridge and the Zoological Society of London's Institute of Zoology and has been published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is titled “Continent-wide panmixia of an African fruit bat facilitates transmission of potentially zoonotic viruses.”
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