Bat coronaviruses silently infect more than 65,000 people each year, scientists warn

Bat coronaviruses silently infect more than 65,000 people each year, scientists warn

There may be an average of more than 65,000 cases of bat coronavirus silently infecting people each year in Southeast Asia, according to a new study that could lead to new tools to improve preparedness for future pandemics.

Flying mammals are known to harbor coronaviruses that can be transmitted to humans, including SARS-related coronaviruses.

Previous studies have suggested that transmission of these viruses to humans may be relatively common in some parts of the world.

However, human-bat interactions are also known to vary between regions, influenced by a variety of social, ecological and economic factors at individual and community scales.

The research, published this Tuesday in the magazine Communications of natureused a new framework to estimate and map the risk of possible SARS-related coronaviruses spreading from bats to humans in Southeast Asia.

Researchers, including those from the EcoHealth Alliance in the US, developed a method to assess the distribution and frequency of the risk of spreading the SARS-related coronavirus from bats in Southeast Asia.

They built prediction models for 26 bat species known to harbor SARS-related coronaviruses in the region that allowed them to map where human populations overlap with those bats.

The scientists then used demographic and disease prevalence data as well as risk assessments to estimate the number of people infected with SARS-related coronaviruses (SARSr-CoV) of bat origin in Southeast Asia each year.

The researchers estimate, using the framework, that an average of about 66,000 annual cases of SARS-related coronavirus spread to humans.

“Our estimate that an average of ~66,000 people become infected with SARSr-CoV each year in Southeast Asia suggests that spillover of SARSr-CoV between bats and humans is common in the region, and mostly , surveillance programs and clinical studies do not detect it. of cases,” the scientists wrote in the study.

Evidence for such undetected silent infections has also been shown for other viral infections of bat origin.

Citing one example, the researchers say that targeted surveillance of encephalitis patients in a small number of clinics in Bangladesh showed that the deadly Nipah virus causes outbreaks annually with an overall fatality rate of about 70 percent, “despite that has recently been reported in the country.”.

“Our calculation of undetected spillover represents the first published attempt, to our knowledge, to identify the risk of spread of SARSr-CoVs from bats to people,” the researchers say.

Regions in southern China, northeastern Myanmar, northern Vietnam and “populated regions of Indonesia” have the greatest diversity of SARSr-CoV bat host species, the study noted.

Scientists say many of these cases may go undetected because of limited surveillance or because they might resemble other diseases.

Although more data are needed to validate these findings and predict the risk of transmission through intermediate hosts, the scientists say the research could help design surveillance and prevention programs in regions where these events are most likely to occur. spread of diseases.

They say their strategy for assessing the risk of disease spreading from animals to humans could be used as a tool to improve preparedness for emerging diseases of bat origin.

“These data on the geography and scale of the spill can be used to target surveillance and prevention programs for a possible future emergence of bat-CoV,” they wrote in the study.

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