UNCC Bioinformatics Prof Says Bats Need Protection To Prevent Zoonotic Transfer of Viruses

Bats get a bad rap. They are known to host more zoonotic viruses — those that spread between people and animals — than any other mammal species. In fact, they are the originating hosts of several disease-causing microbes, including those that cause flu and common colds. At the same time, they are essential for maintaining ecosystem health. Notably, they sustain forest health by dispersing seeds from fruit and pollinating flowers; and they control pests through daily consumption of millions of tons of insects.

“This paradox emphasizes the urgent need to communicate bats’ essential role in the ecosystem — as we work to understand their immunology and ecology, and characterize distribution of viral reservoirs at the global scale,” said Laurel Yohe, assistant professor of bioinformatics at UNC Charlotte. “Bat habitats and populations need protection to minimize disturbance from humans and prevent zoonotic transfer of viruses to people or human-consumed livestock and to prevent spillover of human-evolved viruses back to bats.”

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