Bats and Covid-19
Dear Bat1K members,
Although we all hoped the virus outbreak could be contained when the year started off, now we all find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. Our life is changing and we all have to adapt. Meanwhile, we get to hear the news, densely packed with the coronavirus, the disease it causes, and also: bats. Researchers around the globe are doing our best to quickly understand the virus and its outbreak. Nevertheless, the rush to report and communicate complex scientific results has sometimes led to confusion, mistrust and ultimately even fear and hatred towards bats. This misinformation about bats and the role they may play in the COVID-19 outbreak can only be countered with the best knowledge we can find.
To do this we are compiling a list of articles and material that we will keep updated during these times.
Our key message is this: while viruses related —but not identical— to those causing emerging infectious diseases circulate among bats, risks to people decrease dramatically by protecting wildlife from trafficking and limiting encroachment into wild habitats. Since bats do not get badly sick from many such viruses, research on how bats achieve this could hold the key to help us fight future outbreaks.
We hope these readings facilitate putting the facts in a broader, sound scientific perspective.
Update 8th of April:
- Our Bat1K Emma Teeling in an interview with the Irish Times. This interview ends with a conclusion on how studying bat genomes can allow us to better understand how to find ways to tolerate the coronavirus. To read the interview click here.
- An objective piece from a virologist that should remind us what we truly know: “Updates on how bats relate to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus”. To read this article click here.
Origin of the disease:
- The Benhur Lee Lab is tackling the question of the most likely origin of Sars-CoV-2. This article is available in many different languages, including traditional Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and French. They created a series, “In Part 1 of this short series we’ll talk about the evidence for how this virus emerged into the human population. In Part 2, we’ll dig a bit deeper and discuss why this virus is so effective at infecting humans. And finally, in Part 3, we’ll have all the pieces we need to discuss and debunk the bevy of conspiracy theories surrounding Sars-CoV-2” The Origins of SARS-CoV-2: Part 1
- Clair Jarvis about “Which Species Transmit COVID-19 to Humans? We’re Still Not Sure. Preliminary modeling studies provide a shortlist of potential coronavirus intermediate host species.” https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/which-species-transmit-covid-19-to-humans-were-still-not-sure-67272
- Thinking about conspiracy theories? Read “An analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm
- “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2” is not bats, this is technical, but see outreach below https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9
- A specialized article that was published in Current Biology “Probable Pangolin Origin of SARS-CoV-2 Associated with the COVID-19 Outbreak” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982220303602
- Wuhan-based Huabin Zhao in Science Magazine on the new threat to bats in China. He explores how important bats are for the ecosystem and how vital a public education about bats is to preserve them in times of Corona. This article is accessible to everybody. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6485/1436.1.full
- An easy read for everyone from CNN (health) about why bats are not to blame for COVID-19 https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/19/health/coronavirus-human-actions-intl/index.html?fbclid=IwAR2keO2KKUkClBc_mr4td9ysDP8-YaD44Vt5UzkWImRtyWf3nQVqJEcrkPc
- Eric Boodman “From ferrets to mice and marmosets, labs scramble to find right animals for coronavirus studies” https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/05/coronavirus-labs-scramble-to-find-right-animals-for-covid-19-studies/
Ethics/philosophy/ society perception
- “A systematic review of virological literature revealed that bats were described as a major concern for public health in half of all studies (51%), and that their key role in delivering ecosystem services was disregarded in almost all studies (96%)” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12110
- Alan Levinovitz, “Ideas about natural and unnatural behavior causing disaster are simple, easy – and wrong” in “The Coronavirus is not mother nature’s revenge” https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/05/virus-natural-animals-coronavirus-nature-revenge/
- Concerning the wider context, a late 2018 Nature publication summarizing “the current knowledge on the origin and evolution of these two pathogenic coronaviruses and discuss their receptor usage; we also highlight the diversity and potential of spillover of bat-borne coronaviruses, as evidenced by the recent spillover of swine acute diarrhoea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV) to pigs” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-018-0118-9
- Again dealing with the wider context, a 2013 Nature publication “Isolation and characterization of a bat SARS-like coronavirus that uses the ACE2 receptor” https://www.nature.com/articles/nature12711
- National Geographic, “New coronavirus can spread between humans—but it started in a wildlife market. With confirmed cases in multiple countries, health officials are looking to similar outbreaks from the past and seeing a common thread” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/01/new-coronavirus-spreading-between-humans-how-it-started/
- Bat Conservation International keeps everyone up to date about the latest insights into bats and COVID-19. “As bats have become intertwined in the coverage, we are providing this FAQ to help our community and members interpret and navigate the evolving information and understand why bats are mentioned” http://www.batcon.org/resources/media-education/news-room/gen-news/80-latest-news/1227-bci-s-faq-on-bats-coronaviruses-and-zoonotic-disease