October 22, 2018 6:28 pm
Updated: October 22, 2018 8:30 pm

Stressed bats more capable of spreading viruses to humans: study

A team led by a University of Saskatchewan researcher said they found that stress can increase the spread of viruses from little brown bats.

AP Photo/Mike Groll
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Researchers have found stress can increase the spread of viruses from bats.

Several viruses have passed from the winged mammals to humans, causing often-fatal diseases.

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Officials said Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome, as well as the Hendra and Nipah viruses are thought to have originated in bats.

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University of Saskatchewan (U of S) veterinary microbiologist Vikram Misra led a team to study how bats respond to stress from such things as habitat destruction, lack of nutrition and infections.

“Bats have a really benign relationship with their viruses until you stress them through secondary infections or other stressors … that’s when they start producing and shedding more viruses,” Misra said in a press release.

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The study found that a fungal disease, white nose syndrome (WNS), causes bats to increase their production of coronaviruses that are potentially deadly for humans.

“Understanding the host-pathogen interactions between bats and coronaviruses would help us predict or manage the risk of spillover,” Misra said.

Little brown bats, which are common to the Canadian Prairies, used in the study were collected from Manitoba caves.

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