Where Did The Coronavirus Start? Virus Hunters Find Clues In Bats

Short Wave


All Right Emily Kuang Wave Reporter. Animal Lover Unabashed Animal Lover. It's true you and I both know that bats are amazing. That is not up for dispute on shortwave. They're important for pollinating flowers dispersing seeds. They catch bugs the same ones that bite us and eat up some of our crops but bats also harbor some of the toughest known zoonotic diseases. That's right the rabies virus the Marburg virus the Hendra and Nipah viruses. The Abullah virus outbreak in West Africa was traced to a bat colony. All these viruses find what's called a natural reservoir in bats meaning the viruses live in that host without harming it. Do We know why that is? It's a very interesting question so I used to say a million dollar question now as as a billion dollar question Lynn Fouling says it might have to do with the fact that bats are the only mammal that's adapted for flight because during flight. The body temperature goes to up to all the way to forty two degrees. That's super high. Forty two degrees Celsius is almost one hundred eight degrees Fahrenheit and their heartbeat goes up to a thousand beats per minute. They're burning a ton of energy flying several hours a day and this creates toxic free radicals that damage their cells but Linda's research has shown that bats have also evolved this ability to repair and minimize that cellular damage. Kind of counterstrike and those same defensive. Abilities may help them not only tolerate flight but also to fight infectious diseases in a way that the human body simply cannot so the essentially. Have this like super effective? Immune response rights so while our immune systems can get overwhelmed from fending off these viruses. He thinks bats don't our hypothesis is best has evolved. A different method is to get the balanced right for defense and Torrance and that famous virus to live peacefully with Bass and they're able to safely house these viruses in their bodies and not get sick from them. Got It so. Let's talk about why scientists think this particular corona virus could have come from bats. Well they got a big clue from the start so in early. January Chinese scientists were able to quickly sequence the viruses entire genome and then they published it online from that scientists begin to study the virus in-depth and around this time researchers at Wuhan Institute of Raji in China compared its genome to a library of known viruses right and found a ninety six percent match with Corona virus samples taken from Horseshoe Bats in Union. Yes the same kinds of bats that were natural reservoirs for the original SARS virus that broke out in two thousand three and this led them to believe that this new corona virus likely came from bats to right and from a genetic standpoint ninety six percent match. Sounds like a lot but that four percent can make a big difference exactly that that four percent difference is actually a pretty wide distance in evolutionary timing. It could be even decades. This is Robert Gary Ablett at Tulane University. And while that one paper says there's a ninety six percent match with bats that extra four percent to him suggests some other viral material may have gotten mixed in from another animal and that other animal could have even transmitted the virus to humans right. This is called an intermediate host or an in-between host correct. But when it comes to this corona virus scientists aren't sure if there was an intermediate host between bats and humans and if so they're not sure what the intermediate host could be. There are theories Robert and fellow. Researchers have hypothesized. This virus could be a blend of viruses from two different animals bats and something else. An early scientific studies suggest it could be this animal called Penguin this scaly ant eater vulnerable to illegal wildlife trade and virus penguins or some other animal. That has a similar receptor binding domain. So to buyers getting together recombining to make up a new Sars KOGI team but the important point to all this is that virus hunters haven't come to a definitive conclusion about the chain of transmission from animals to humans about the involvement of penguins and baths or any other host animal. Not on the level of proof. They need right like the genetic level. Yes we don't know definitively which animal or animals this came from. It will take time to figure out but we do know. This came from animals a bunch of scientists in mid-february publish this big letter in the Journal. Lancet saying evidence overwhelmingly points to wildlife as the origin for this corona virus. And Roberts stands by that too. I can tell you that this is a product of nature. It's not a virus. That has arisen in a laboratory by any scientists purposely manipulating something that that was then released onto a cup like that. That just didn't happen. Because if you look at the actual genome which Robert has done the evidence. Isn't there okay so you said earlier. While speaking to the researcher in Singapore that it took a decade to find out the actual origin of the virus that causes SARS the original SARS. Do we know how long it could take to figure out where this new corona virus came from. Oh Mattie I wished I had an answer for you. We don't it all depends on funding and resources. Doesn't it all gone and time like I keep saying? Throughout this whole episode investment in virus hunting right expanding the zoonotic studies to figure out the transmission chain between animals and people. Because if we know that we are armed with information that can help us. Prevent future outbreaks. Peter doc he's the President of the US based nonprofit ego health alliance and he says that even if bats are the likely origin they are not to blame. It's no but's it's uh it's it's and what we do to Bass that drives this. Pandemic risks like wildlife trade and Food and agriculture practices or are close proximity to animals in densely populated areas one of the poster things about funding that. We're actually behind. These pandemics is that gives those the power to do something about it. We don't need to get rid about. We don't need to do anything with that. We've just got to leave them alone. Let me get on doing the good. They do flipping around at night

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