Why Bats Are Such Good Hosts for Ebola and Other Deadly Diseases
Some of the planet’s scariest, most lethal viruses find a natural refuge inside bats, including Ebola, rabies, Marburg and the SARS coronavirus. Many high-profile epidemics have been traced to bats, and scientists are discovering new bat-borne viruses all the time.
The animals seem especially adept at harboring and spreading disease. Scientists trying to understand why have found some promising leads in bat genomes, but others argue bats’ notoriety as viral carriers isn’t justified.
“Are bats special? I still say it’s too early to answer,” says Linfa Wang, who leads research groups at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory and the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. He’s spent the last two decades studying bat-borne viruses and hunting for characteristics that might make the animals such great viral hosts.