What bats can teach us about stopping the next pandemic - Genetics News

What bats can teach us about stopping the next pandemic – Genetics News

Why are bats often linked to the incubation of coronaviruses such as those causing COVID-19, SARS and other highly contagious respiratory diseases?

A new study from Tulane University suggests that the link between bats and coronaviruses is likely due to a long shared history, and that their genetic information can help us prevent and manage future pandemics.

Hannah Frank, PhD, a bat scientist at Tulane University School of Science and Engineering, led the effort in collaboration with David Enard (University of Arizona) and Scott Boyd (Stanford University).

“We found that bats experienced unusual coronavirus pressure compared to other mammals, supporting the idea that bats are rich sources of coronaviruses and can yield information for prevention or future treatment,” said Frank, assistant professor in the Tulane Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Posted in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Bthe Royal Society’s flagship biological research journal, the study was funded by two National Science Foundation grants aimed at better understanding bat immunity and evolution in response to pathogens, particularly following COVID-19.

“Animal-derived pandemics highlight the need to understand how natural hosts have evolved in response to emerging human pathogens and which groups may be susceptible to infection and/or potential reservoirs to mitigate public health concerns. and conservation,” Frank said.

In the largest bat and mammalian dataset to date, the team studied an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2, the host protein that serves as a receptor for viruses that cause COVID-19 and SARS. They also studied dipeptidyl-peptidase 4, DPP4 or CD26, which acts as a receptor for MERS-CoV, the virus responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The ACE2 and DPP4 genes are subject to strong selection pressure in bats, more than in other mammals, and in residues that come into contact with viruses.

“Additionally, mammalian groups vary in their similarity to humans in residues that come into contact with SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and MERS-CoV, and increased similarity to humans in residues binding is largely predictive of susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2,” says Franck.

The study adds to our understanding of the relationship between coronaviruses and mammals, especially bats, and provides various data for studies of how host proteins are bound by coronaviruses.

“This study gives us better insight into how mammals, especially bats, have evolved with coronaviruses,” she said. “It also highlights broad patterns of susceptibility that may prove useful in managing this pandemic and future ones. »

Frank warns that research shouldn’t make people fear bats. They play an important role in our ecosystem, making a significant contribution to pest control, plant pollination, and seed propagation. The US Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates that bats eat enough insects to save more than $3 billion a year in crop damage and pesticide costs in the United States.

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Materials provided by tulane university. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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