If there are any signs of earlier outbreaks of coronavirus, the now spreading Wuhan strain can eventually return to fats.
Dr. Peter Daszak, Chairman of EcoHealth Alliance who has been researching diseases from animals to humans for 15 years in China, said
“We don’t know the source yet, but there’s pretty strong evidence that this is a bat origin coronavirus.” He said, “It’s probably going to be the Chinese horseshoe bat,” a common species that weighs up to an ounce.
If he’s right, this strain will join many other viruses that bats carry. SARS and MERS epidemics were caused by bat coronaviruses, as was a highly destructive viral epidemic in pigs.
One bat can host many different viruses without getting sick. They are the natural reservoir for the Marburg virus, and Nipah and Hendra viruses, which have caused human disease and outbreaks in Africa, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Australia.
They are thought to be the natural reservoir for the Ebola virus. They also carry the rabies virus, but in that case the bats are affected by the disease.
Their tolerance of viruses, which surpasses that of other mammals, is one of their many distinctive qualities. They are the only flying mammals, they devour disease-carrying insects by the ton, and they are essential in the pollination of many fruits, like bananas, avocados and mangoes.
Understanding how so many viruses became transported and survived was a profound question for science and new research indicates that the solution may be how the evolutionary flight adaptations to fats have altered their immune systems.
People in many parts of the world eat bats, and sell them in live animal markets, which was the source of SARS, and possibly the latest coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan. They also often live in huge colonies in caves, where crowded conditions are ideal for passing viruses to one another.