Scientists discover new virus lurking in bats: Similar pathogens kill up to one in three people

Scientists have discovered a new virus lurking in bats.

The Kiwira virus – a type of hantavirus – has been found in free-tailed bats in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There is currently no evidence that the Kiwira virus could pose a threat to humans, but researchers are conducting follow-up studies.

Hantaviruses are most often found in rodents and spread to humans through contact with infected animals, with disease the virus can cause killing up to a third of those it infects.

The group of viruses can cause mild flu-like illness symptoms, as well as excessive bleeding and kidney failure.

It comes after MPs warned last week that Britain’s largest animal disease facility – responsible for monitoring animal-borne infections – is crumbling.

The Kiwira virus – a type of hantavirus – has been found in free-tailed bats in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

There is currently no evidence that the virus could pose a threat to humans, but researchers are conducting follow-up studies.  Map shows where the virus has been detected (crosses) and the regions where the free-tailed bats live (blue area)

There is currently no evidence that the virus could pose a threat to humans, but researchers are conducting follow-up studies. Map shows where the virus has been detected (crosses) and the regions where the free-tailed bats live (blue area)

The researchers, led by Dr Sabrina Weiss, chief of public health at the Center for International Health Protection in Berlin, describe the new virus in the journal Viruses, noting that free-tailed bats cover “large regions” of sub-Saharan Africa.

And the species is known to reside “in and around human dwellings,” so a “possible spillover of the Kiwira virus to humans” should be considered, they warned.

Research needs to be done among bats in the area to better understand how they are put together and whether the virus might transmit to humans.

While no human cases have been seen to date, the researchers said that the hantavirus often causes generalized feverish symptoms and is thus difficult to recognize.

How the disease can affect people depends on the type of hantavirus.

The Sin Nombre virus – a hantavirus spread by deer mice in the US – can cause a syndrome that kills up to one in three people, while the Puumala virus – commonly associated with sand moles – has a death rate of less than one in three. 200.

There is currently not much evidence that the Kiwira virus is also a major problem for bats, with only six out of 334 bats from Tanzania and one in 49 bats from the DRC carrying the disease.

However, researchers said, ‘Hantavirus disease often manifests as a feverish illness with non-specific symptoms […] and can easily be overlooked.”

The viruses are mainly transmitted to humans through contact with the urine, faeces and saliva of an infected animal. However, in rare cases, the viruses can spread between people.

Chelsea Wood, an assistant professor of parasite ecology at the University of Washington, spoke about the risks in National Geographic.

There is currently not much evidence that the Kiwira virus is also a major problem for bats, with only six out of 334 bats from Tanzania and one in 49 bats from the DRC carrying the disease.

There is currently not much evidence that the Kiwira virus is also a major problem for bats, with only six out of 334 bats from Tanzania and one in 49 bats from the DRC carrying the disease.

She said: ‘The scary thing about these zoonotic viruses is that the spillover process is happening all the time. Covid is a good example.’

It comes after it was revealed that the headquarters of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – the site tasked with stopping animal-borne infections in their tracks – was found to be left to deteriorate to an alarming degree.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee warned that the APHA site, near Weybridge, Surrey, would cost up to £3 billion to repair over the next 15 years.

That’s despite the Covid pandemic showing how easily an animal virus can plunge the world into chaos.

APHA’s Weybridge site is the UK’s premier scientific facility for animal disease threat management.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘These diseases are devastating to our food production systems, the economy and, when they transcend the species barrier for humans, as Covid did, our entire society.’

APHA's Weybridge site is the UK's premier scientific facility for managing animal disease threats, but the Department of the Environment (Defra) has 'completely failed in its historic management' of the complex

APHA’s Weybridge site is the UK’s premier scientific facility for managing animal disease threats, but the Department of the Environment (Defra) has ‘completely failed in its historic management’ of the complex

In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on Covid, stating that bats are most likely to have transmitted the virus to humans.

The new report, called Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), said a zoonotic origin was the most likely explanation for the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

The first human cases were reported in December 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

However, the report said that neither the original animal source, the intermediate host, nor the time when the virus crossed over to humans has been identified.

That’s mainly because a lot of data is missing, the report said, particularly from China.

ZOONOTIC DISEASES: THESE ARE VIRUSES THAT USUALLY START IN WILD ANIMALS THAT CAN TRANSFER TO OTHER SPECIES AND SURVIVE

Zoonotic diseases can be passed from one species to another.

The infecting agent – called a pathogen – in these diseases can cross the species boundary and still survive.

They vary in potency and are often less dangerous in some species than others.

To be successful, they rely on prolonged and direct contact with a variety of animals.

Notable examples are the flu strains that have adapted to survive in humans from different host animals.

H5N1, H7N9, and H5N6 are all strains of avian influenza that come from birds and infected humans.

These cases are rare, but outbreaks occur when a person has had prolonged, direct exposure to infected animals.

The flu strain is also unable to pass from person to person once a person is infected.

An outbreak of swine flu – H1N1 – in 2009 was deemed a pandemic and governments spent millions developing ‘tamiflu’ to stop the spread of the disease.

Influenza is zoonotic because as a virus it can evolve rapidly and change shape and structure.

There are examples of other zoonoses, such as chlamydia.

Chlamydia is a bacteria with many different strains in the general family.

This is known to happen in some specific strains, for example Chlamydia abortion.

This specific bacterium can cause abortion in small ruminants and, when transferred to a human, can cause abortions, premature births and life-threatening illnesses in pregnant women.

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