Last updated June 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm
If you were planning on snuggling up to a bat anytime soon, this might make you re-think.
Bats are the biggest threat of cross-species virus transmission to humans, followed by primates and rats, as research published in Nature reveals.
The reason why these researchers went looking so deep is because predicting and preventing disease epidemics is incredibly tricky. Scientists know that a lot of infectious diseases often start in animals, especially mammals, but out of the many species that exist it’s hard to know where to look.
Patterns emerged from their analyses, such as the contributing factors for the likeliness of zoonotic viruses spreading to humans which include: relatedness to humans, potential for human-animal contact, and underlying viral traits.
Combined with knowledge about the geography of where these viruses in particular mammals can be found, and where said mammals are prominent, researchers can begin to work out where there are ‘missing viruses’ or ‘missing zoonoses’ (infectious diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans).
This power to predict could help with targeted surveillance for potential new viruses that pose a risk to human health.
- Link to original research article: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature22975