SARS bats get the blame for killing piglets

China | Apr 6, 2018
A mystery germ that killed nearly 25,000 piglets in neighboring Guangdong in 2016 and 2017 came from horseshoe bats, which also passed on the deadly human Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus.

The finding underlines the urgency of tracking viruses in animal "reservoirs," researchers say in science journal Nature.

"This study highlights the importance of identifying coronavirus diversity and distribution in bats to mitigate future outbreaks that could threaten livestock, public health, and economic growth," they add.

The researchers used DNA to pinpoint the cause of a disease that caused diarrhea, vomiting and death in piglets in Guangdong. They identified a never-before-seen coronavirus dubbed Swine Acute Diarrhea Syndrome, which does not appear to sicken humans.

The team found the virus came from horseshoe bats in a region near the birthplace of SARS some 15 years ago. Highly infectious and deadly, the SARS virus killed nearly 800 people, or almost one in 10 sufferers.

Many new human infectious diseases - including SARS and Ebola - have an animal origin.

The study findings should serve as "a warning of viral interspecies transmission between wildlife and domestic animals," study co-author Zhengli Shi says. It also underlined "the importance of long-term surveillance for viruses in their natural reservoirs."

But this does not mean killing horseshoe bats.

"Wildlife is important in ecosystems," Zhengli adds. "It's normal that wildlife carry many viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. As long as human society keeps away from wildlife, there's a very low chance of interspecies transmission."


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January 2019