Bat ‘Super Immunity’ May Explain How Bats Carry Coronaviruses—USask Study

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A University of Saskatchewan (USask) research team has uncovered how bats can carry the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus without getting sick—research that could shed light on how coronaviruses make the jump to humans and other animals. 

A University of Saskatchewan (USask) research team has uncovered how bats can carry the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus without getting sick—research that could shed light on how coronaviruses make the jump to humans and other animals.

Coronaviruses such as MERS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and more recently the COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2 virus, are thought to have originated in bats. While these viruses can cause serious and often fatal disease in people, for reasons not previously well understood, bats seem unharmed.

“The bats don’t get rid of the virus and yet don’t get sick. We wanted to understand why the MERS virus doesn’t shut down the bat immune responses as it does in humans,” said USask microbiologist Vikram Misra.

In research just published in Nature Scientific Reports, the team has demonstrated for the first time that cells from an insect-eating brown bat can be persistently infected with MERS coronavirus for months, due to important adaptations from both the bat and the virus working together.

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