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Covid spread: Study on bats a wake-up call

The bat species identified are the same which are considered to be the source of the Nipah virus outbreak that struck the state twice - in 2018 and 2019.

Published: 16th April 2020 06:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th April 2020 06:12 AM   |  A+A-

Representational image. (EPS | Martin Louis)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The outcome of an inter-state study that two bat species in the state - Pteropus spp bats (fruit bats/flying foxes) and Rousettus spp bats (dog-faced fruit bats) - are carriers of potentially pathogenic Coronavirus (CoV)- has become a new headache for Kerala in its Covid-19 containment activities.  The study, titled ‘Detection of Coronaviruses in Pteropus and Rousettus species of bats from different states of India,’   stresses the need for proactive surveillance and screening in these species for novel viruses with epidemic potential.

The bat species identified are the same which are considered to be the source of the Nipah virus outbreak that struck the state twice - in 2018 and 2019. “It is a known fact that bats are reservoirs of viruses with human pathogenic potential. The SARS-CoV-2 virus causing Covid-19 is a zoonoticone. The World Health Organization itself traced a link between the novel Coronavirus and other similar known CoV circulating in bats. Thus the findings of the study is significant for the state,” said an epidemiologist.

The epidemiologist further added, “It is from the CoV family that SARS-CoV-2 originated. Before that, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) had their origin from that family. The possibility of bat Coronavirus spillover to humans is thus high and it results in mild to moderate respiratory infections, common cold and lower respiratory tract infections.”  Meanwhile, the epidemiologist also warns of virus replication and the possibility of inter species transmission.

To corroborate the same, the study states that four of the 78 rectal swabs of Rousettus spp bats screened for the bat Coronavirus turned positive. All the positive samples belonged to Kerala. Also, intestinal specimens of two bats were also found to be positive. In the case of Pteropus spp bats, 21 of the 508 bats screened tested positive. Of these, 12 belongs to Kerala. “In the study, it has been stated that there is a need for proactive surveillance of zoonotic infections in bats. The detection and identification of such viruses from bats also recommend cross-sectional antibody surveys (human and domestic animals) in localities where the viruses have been detected,” he said. 

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