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Bat 'nightclubs' could be the key to solving the next pandemic.

Myotis bats roosting together. Credit: Dr. Nicole Foley/Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Bats carry some of the deadliest zoonotic diseases that can affect both humans and animals, such as Ebola and COVID-19. In a recently published topic In the journal Cell Genomicsa research team at Texas A&M has revealed that some species of bats are immune to the viruses they carry because they normally exchange immune genes during seasonal mating flocks.

“Understanding how bats have developed viral tolerance can help us understand how humans are evolving,” said Dr. Nicole Foley from the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (VMBS). How to better fight diseases.” “As genomicists, our work often underpins the research of scientists who directly study virus transmission. They may be developing vaccines for diseases or monitoring vulnerable animal populations. We Everyone depends on each other to stay ahead of the next pandemic.”

Because bats are often immune to the diseases they carry, Foley and Dr. Bill Murphy, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at VMBS, believe that studying bat disease immunity is the next step. May hold the key to stopping a global pandemic.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreak prediction and prevention are top of mind for researchers and the public alike,” Foley said. “Many bat species tolerate viruses that are harmful. which means they become reservoirs of disease – they carry the virus, but importantly they don’t cause symptoms.”

Bat 'nightclubs' could be the key to solving the next pandemic.

Myotis bats roosting together. Credit: Dr. Nicole Foley/Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The secret of crowd behavior

To figure out how bats developed tolerance to these deadly viruses, Foley, Murphy and their international research partners mapped the evolutionary tree of the Myotis bats they knew. were trying to identify which genes might be involved.

“Meots are the second largest species of bat mammal, with more than 140 species,” he said. “They are found almost all over the world and they host a great diversity of viruses.”

To add to the difficulties associated with detecting relationships between species, Myotis and other bat species also engage in swarming behavior during mating.

Foley said, “You can think of swarm behavior as a social gathering; there’s a lot of flight activity, increased communication and mixing of different species; for bats, it’s not unlike going to a club.” ” Foley said.

Complicating matters for researchers, population growth produces hybrids—individual bats with parents of different species.

“The problem with mutated bats is that there are so many species, about 130, but they all look very similar,” Foley said. “It can be very difficult to tell them apart, and then hybridization makes it even more difficult. If we’re trying to map how these bats evolved so that we can understand their disease immunity, To understand, to be able to tell who is important.”

Bat 'nightclubs' could be the key to solving the next pandemic.

A myotis bat, prey. Credit: Dr. Nicole Foley/Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Untangling hybridization

With this in mind, mapping the true relationships between Myotis Foley and Murphy were the first to solve it. for hybridization so they could tell more clearly which species were which.

“We collaborated with researchers from Ireland, France and Switzerland to sequence the genomes of 60 Myotis. “This allowed us to know which parts of the DNA represented the true evolutionary history of the species and which parts arose from hybridization.”

With that part of the puzzle solved, researchers were finally able to examine the genetic code more closely to see how it might shed light. Immunity.

They found it There were some of them that are frequently exchanged between species during swarming.

“Swarming behavior has always been a mystery to researchers,” Foley said. helps to spread the variety widely throughout the population.”

  • Bat 'nightclubs' could be the key to solving the next pandemic.

    Long-eared myotis bat. Credit: Dr. Nicole Foley/Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

  • Bat 'nightclubs' could be the key to solving the next pandemic.

    Long-eared myotis bat. Credit: Dr. Nicole Foley/Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

New questions for researchers

Foley and Murphy’s findings open the door to new questions about the importance of hybridization in evolution.

“Hybridization played a much larger role in our results than we expected,” Foley noted. “These findings have made us wonder how much hybridization has so far obscured genomicists’ knowledge of mammalian evolutionary history. Now, we hope to identify other examples. occurred among mammals and see what we can learn about how they are related and even how and why genomes are organized the way they are,” he said.

More information:
Nicole M. Foley et al, Karyotypic stasis and swarming influence the evolution of viral tolerance in a species-rich bat radiation, Cell Genomics (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.xgen.2023.100482

Reference: Bat ‘nightclubs’ may be key to solving next pandemic (2024, February 20) Retrieved February 20, 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-nightclubs-key-pandemic.html Obtained

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