Bats prove to be rich reservoirs for emerging viruses

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

2008

Author(s): 

Calisher, C.H., K.V. Holmes, S.R. Dominguez, T. Schountz, and P. Cryan

Suggested Citation: 

Calisher, C.H., K.V. Holmes, S.R. Dominguez, T. Schountz, and P. Cryan. 2008. Bats prove to be rich reservoirs for emerging viruses. Microbe. 3(11): 521-528.

Emerging pathogens, many of them viruses, continue to surprise us, providing many newly recognized diseases to study and to try to control. Many of these emergent viruses are zoonotic, transmitted from reservoirs in wild or domestic animals to humans, either by insect vectors or by exposure to the droppings or tissues of such animals. One rich—but, until recently, underappreciated—source of emergent viruses is bats (Chiroptera, meaning “hand wing”). Accounting for 1,116, or nearly one-fourth, of the 4,600 recognized species of mammals, bats are grouped into two suborders— Megachiroptera, which contains a single family, Pteropodidae, consisting of 42 genera and 186 species, and Microchiroptera, which contains 17 families, 160 genera, and 930 species.

Although bats are among the most abundant, diverse, and geographically dispersed orders of terrestrial mammals, research on these flying mammals historically focused more on their habits and outward characteristics than on their role in carrying microorganisms and transmitting pathogens to other species. Even in those cases where bats were known to carry particular pathogens, the microbiologists who studied those pathogens typically knew little about the bat hosts. Hence, investigators now are seeking to explain how variations of anatomy, physiology, ecology, and behavior influence the roles of bats as hosts for viral pathogens.

      

Paul Cryan
Paul Cryan