Searching For the Next Viral Threat

Duke University infectious disease researchers are designing new ways to detect viral threats earlier in hopes that we can prevent another pandemic.

To Linfa Wang, PhD, some of the most important unanswered questions about the COVID-19 pandemic lie within slick layers of guano, deep in a hole in the ground.

A virologist with the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, Wang was part of a team of international scientists tasked by the World Health Organization (WHO) with unraveling the origins of the original SARS virus 17 years ago. Now he’s attempting to do the same with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, known as SARS-CoV-2. While the exact path the virus followed to begin infecting humans isn’t yet known, it’s almost certain to run through bats, which have been the focus of Wang’s work for nearly three decades. And that means looking at a lot of bat poop.