Carriers increasing? Scientists find flu virus in bats for the first time- risks to humans unclear

February 27, 2012ATLANTA - For the first time, scientists have found evidence of flu in bats, reporting a never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear. The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven’t been able to grow it, and it’s not clear if – or how well – it spreads. Flu bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence. “Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible” animals, said Ruben Donis, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who co-authored the new study. Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the bat population into this new variety. Scientists haven’t even been able to grow the new virus in chicken eggs or in human cell culture, as they do with more conventional flu strains. But it still could pose a threat to humans. For example, if it mingled with more common forms of influenza, it could swap genes and mutate into something more dangerous, a scenario at the heart of the global flu epidemic movie “Contagion.” The research was posted online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The CDC has an international outpost in Guatemala, and that’s where researchers collected more than 300 bats in 2009 and 2010. The research was mainly focused on rabies, but the scientists also checked specimens for other germs and stumbled upon the new virus. It was in the intestines of little yellow-shouldered bats, said Donis, a veterinarian by training. These bats eat fruit and insects but don’t bite people. Yet it’s possible they could leave the virus on produce and a human could get infected by taking a bite. It’s conceivable some people were infected with the virus in the past. Now that scientists know what it looks like, they are looking for it in other bats as well as humans and other animals, said Donis, who heads the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in the CDC’s flu division. –Physics
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3 Responses to Carriers increasing? Scientists find flu virus in bats for the first time- risks to humans unclear

  1. Ryan says:

    Sounds just like the movie contagion..that whole flu epidemic killed millions and it was caused by bats dropping things into pig pens.

    Like

  2. Gen says:

    On the subject of bats: Australia

    From News.com

    Bat plague closes NT town’s sports fieldsFrom: AAP
    February 29, 2012

    Up to half a million protected bats have forced the closure of a sporting ground in the Northern Territory town of Katherine after they took up residence in nearby trees. Mayor Anne Shepherd said hundreds of thousands of bats were now in mahogany trees around the Katherine Sports Grounds, where soccer and baseball was played.

    “The bat faeces are all over the sporting grounds and the smell is really atrocious,” Ms Shepherd said.

    “It is a very unpleasant situation, sports could not possibly be played there.”

    Sports events at the ground were cancelled yesterday until the bats moved on, which was expected to occur in a week or so.

    The crow-sized red bats are protected and known to cause damage to trees as they gathered together on branches.

    Authorities considered trying to force the bats from the trees around the sports fields, but Ms Shepherd said that risked the animals settling in residential areas.

    It was not the first time the town has had to deal with a bat problem.

    After flooding in Katherine in 1998 and trees in the local river corridor were damaged, millions of bats moved into residential areas.

    “That was terrible,” Ms Shepherd said.

    “You couldn’t hang your washing on the line as it would get faeces on it, and that is pretty acidic,” she said.

    But she said the bats were vital for pollinating the native trees and were a spectacular site when they left their roosts en masse at the end of the day.

    Like

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