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Inquiry into Study on Bats and Bat-Hunters

  • 03 Feb 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

  • The government has ordered an inquiry into a study conducted in Nagaland by researchers from China, US, and India on bats and humans carrying antibodies to deadly viruses like Ebola.
  • The study is investigated for how the scientists were allowed to access live samples of bats and bat hunters (humans) without due permission.
  • The inquiry comes at a time when people worldwide are grappling with the spread of novel coronavirus (nCoV) from China.

Key Points

  • Bats are harvested in an annual ritual by a Naga Tribe in Nagaland. The study conducted research on individuals who participated in the ritual.
  • The Nagaland study suggests bats in South Asia act as a reservoir host of a diverse range of filoviruses, and filovirus spillover occurs through human exposure to these bats.
    • Spillover effect means the virus seems to have moved from bats to humans in one event and after this moved from one human to another.

Filovirus

  • Filoviruses belong to a virus family called Filoviridae.
  • Filovirus is a filamentous RNA virus of a genus which causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and nonhuman primates.
  • 3 genera of this virus family have been identified: Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus and Ebolavirus.
  • Northeast India is a region with no historical record of Ebola virus. But, this study has found the presence of filovirus (ex. ebolavirus, marburg virus) reactive antibodies in both human (ex. bat hunters) and bat populations implying zoonotic spread
  • However, the potential virus present in bats may not be an exact copy of the virus responsible for various outbreaks.

Diseases Linked to Bats

  • All bats can carry viruses. Many high-profile epidemics have been traced to bats.
    • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) antibodies were found in insectivorous bats.
    • Ebola antibodies were found in Hammer-headed fruit bat.
    • Indian Flying Fox, hosts over 50 viruses.
    • Rabies
  • With around 1,200 species, bats comprise 20% of the earth’s mammalian diversity.
  • Long periods of flying raises the temperatures of bats, boosting their immune responses and helps them survive the microbes’ pathogenic effects.

Way Forward

  • Given the widespread challenges form the newly discovered viruses, it must be ensured that all medical studies in the country adhere to strict norms.

Source: TH

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