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Community coronavirus  covid 19  from pangolin  snake or bat  fact  | Upload Society

Coronavirus, COVID-19: From Pangolin, Snake Or Bat. Fact?

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by: Joyce Mahler
coronavirus  covid 19  from pangolin  snake or bat  fact  | Upload

The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 2.804+ people, 82.186+ people are proven infected worldwide with the coronavirus (Thursday, 27-02-2020). The Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumps from animals to humans. 

The Coronivirus: What Was The Intermediate Host

The SARS coronavirus, which killed 774 people in the early 2000s, jumped from bats to civets to people. The Wuhan coronavirus is also thought to have originated in bats, which may have passed the disease to snakes or Pangolins, which then passed it to humans. Snakes Could Be the Original Source of the New Coronavirus Outbreak in China. A study of the virus’s genetic sequence suggests similarities to that seen in snakes, but is it?

Recommended: Coronavirus COVID-19: Worse Then Thought: A Must Read Update

SARS and MERS: The Bat, The Masked Palm Civet And Camels

Both SARS and MERS are classified as zoonotic viral diseases, meaning the first patients who were infected acquired these viruses directly from animals. This was possible because while in the animal host, the virus had acquired a series of genetic mutations that allowed it to infect and multiply inside humans.

How do docters test for SARS?
Lab tests to detect SARS virus include a blood test, a nasal swab or a sample from your stool or urine, or growing the virus in culture.

Now these viruses can be transmitted from person to person. Field studies have revealed that the original source of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV is the bat, and that the masked palm civets (a mammal native to Asia and Africa) and camels, respectively, served as intermediate hosts between bats and humans.

Graph Sars, Mers, Bats, Camels, Humans

How do you test for MERS?
Molecular Tests
Real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) assays are molecular tests that can be used to detect viral RNA in clinical samples. Most state laboratories in the United States are approved to test for MERS-CoV by using an rRT-PCR assay developed by CDC.

From Bats To Snakes: The Wuhan Market

In the case of this 2019 coronavirus outbreak, reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalized were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market which also sold processed meats and live consumable animals including: poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles. However, since no one has ever reported finding a coronavirus infecting aquatic animals, it is plausible that the coronavirus may have originated from other animals sold in that market.

snake eats bat

The hypothesis that the 2019-nCoV jumped from an animal at the market is strongly supported by a new publication in the Journal of Medical Virology. The scientists conducted an analysis and compared the genetic sequences of 2019-nCoV and all other known coronaviruses.

From Bats To Pangolins

Some Chinese researchers investigating the pangolin as possible origin of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China. Friday they said that the endangered pangolin may be the ‘missing link’ between bats and humans, but other scientists said the search may not be over.

Pangolin

An earlier study pointed to snakes, and there remain numerous candidate species in the Wuhan wildlife market thought to be ground zero of the epidemic.

But according to Arnaud Fontanet, from France's Pasteur Institute, the disease likely didn't jump straight from bats to humans. "We think there's another animal that's an intermediary." Fontanet believes the intermediary was ‘probably a mammal’, possible belonging to the badger family.


                                                             Pangolins - The world's most trafficked animal

After testing more than 1,000 samples from wild animals, scientists at the South China Agricultural University found the genome sequences of viruses in pangolins to be 99 percent identical to those on coronavirus patients, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"This is not scientific evidence," said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge. "Investigations into animal reservoirs are extremely important, but results must be then be published for international scrutiny." "Simply reporting detection of viral RNA with sequence similarity of 99+ percent is not sufficient," he added.

Eric Leroy, a virologist and vet at the IRD said the search could well turn up a result quickly like in the case of SARS. Equally, it could take years.

Ferret badger
Chinese Ferret Badger

The study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV reveals that the new virus is most closely related to two bat SARS-like coronavirus samples from China, initially suggesting that, like SARS and MERS, the bat might also be the origin of 2019-nCoV. The authors further found that the DNA coding sequence of 2019-nCoV spike protein, which forms the ‘crown’ of the virus particle that recognizes the receptor on a host cell, indicates that the bat virus might have mutated before infecting people. But when the researchers performed a more detailed bioinformatics analysis of the sequence of 2019-nCoV, it suggests that this coronavirus might come from snakes.

Recommended: Coronavirus, Flu And Climate Change: Is There A Connection?

Coronavirus: Protein Codes From Snakes

The researchers used an analysis of the protein codes favoured by the new coronavirus and compared it to the protein codes from coronaviruses found in different animal hosts, like birds, snakes, marmots, hedgehogs, manis, bats and humans. Surprisingly, they found that the protein codes in the 2019-nCoV are most similar to those used in snakes.

What does a gene code for a protein?
The journey from gene to protein is complex and tightly controlled within each cell. The type of RNA that contains the information for making a protein is called messenger RNA (mRNA) because it carries the information, or message, from the DNA out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm.


                                                  Snakes Hunt Bats In A Cave | Planet Earth | BBC Earth

Snakes often hunt for bats in wild. Reports indicate that snakes were sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan, raising the possibility that the 2019-nCoV might have jumped from the host species—bats—to snakes and then to humans at the beginning of this coronavirus outbreak. However, how the virus could adapt to both the cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts remains a mystery.

Snake eating bat

Researchers must verify the origin of the virus through laboratory experiments. Searching for the 2019-nCoV sequence in snakes would be the first thing to do. However, since the outbreak, the seafood market has been disinfected and shut down, which makes it challenging to trace the new virus’ source animal.

Sampling DNA from animals sold at the market and from wild snakes and bats is needed to confirm the origin of the virus. Nonetheless, the reported findings will also provide insights for developing prevention and treatment protocols.

Recommended: Coronavirus: Bill Gates, 65 Million Death In A Simulation

Coronavirus And Sars: Passed From Animals To Humans In a Wet Market

The coronavirus spreading in China and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common: Both are from the coronavirus family and both were passed from animals to humans in a wet market. Poorly regulated live-animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spill over from wildlife hosts into the human population. In the case of SARS, and probably this coronavirus outbreak too, bats were the original hosts. They then infected other animals via their poop or saliva, and the unwitting intermediaries transmitted the virus to humans.

What does zoonotic mean?
Zoonosis is another name for a zoonotic disease. This type of disease passes from an animal or insect to a human. Some don't make the animal sick but will sicken a human. Zoonotic diseases range from minor short-term illness to a major life-changing illness. Certain ones can even cause death.

people, meat, market, purple light
Chinese 'wet market'. 

Coronavirus, COVID-19: Bats & Birds Reservoir Species For Viruses

Bats and birds are considered reservoir species for viruses with pandemic potential according Bart Haagmans, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

In the past 45 years, at least three other pandemics (besides SARS) have been traced back to bats. The creatures were the original source of Ebola, which has killed 13,500 people in multiple outbreaks since 1976:

  • Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, better known as MERS, which can be found in 28 countries
  • The Nipah virus, which has a 78% fatality rate
  • The coronavirus might have jumped from bats to snakes to people

Not all coronaviruses are deadly, the ones endemic to humans, like the common cold, are often considered inconsequential. The coronaviruses that pose a pandemic risk, however, are those that hang out in animals. Because these viruses have not been circulating in humans before, specific immunity to these viruses is absent in humans.

Coronavirus: Wuhan

Experts haven’t yet confirmed the animal species that enabled it to spread to people, but they have some guesses. Scientists in China compared the genetic code of the Wuhan coronavirus to other coronaviruses and found it to be most similar to two bat coronavirus samples.

Chinese Cobra
Coronaviris via The Chinese Cobra?

There’s an indication that it’s a bat virus said Vincent Munster, a scientist at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. According to a group of scientists who edit the Journal of Medical Virology, the intermediary species in this case could be the Chinese cobra.

How do Coronaviruses spread?
Coronaviruses primarily spread through close contact with another individual, in particular through coughing and sneezing on somebody else who is within a range of about 3 to 6 feet from that person.
If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface a countertop, for example  and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, for example, the latter may get sick.

That’s because further genetic analysis showed that the genetic building blocks of the Wuhan coronavirus closely resembled that of snakes. So the researchers think a population of bats could have infected snakes, which passed the virus to humans as they were being sold at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan. But the only way to be sure about where the virus came from is to take DNA samples from animals sold at that market and from wild snakes and bats in the area.

Coronavirus: Why Bats Pose Such A Threat

Bats harbour a significantly higher proportion of zoonotic viruses than other mammals, according to a 2017 study. Experts think that’s because bats can fly across large geographical ranges, transporting diseases as they go. That makes them an ideal host. Bats pass along viruses in their poop: If they drop feces onto a piece of fruit that a different animal then eats, the creature can become a carrier.

We know a fair amount of viruses on the World Health Organization’s Blueprint list of priority diseases have either a direct or indirect link with bats,” Munster said. (The list includes the SARS and MERS viruses.) Last March, a study even predicted that bats could be the source of a new coronavirus outbreak in China. It is highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.

2 bats, tree branch

That’s because:

  • The majority of coronaviruses – those that circulate both in humans and in animals – can be found in China
  • Plus, the study authors said, most of the bat hosts of these coronaviruses live near humans in China, potentially transmitting viruses to humans and livestock
  • The bat population from which the SARS virus originated, for example, lived in a cave just over 1 kilometre, or about half a mile, from the nearest village
  • Similarly, a 2017 study warned that the risk of spill over into people and emergence of a disease similar to SARS is possible. The authors identified at least 300 separate strains of coronaviruses still circulating in bats.

How SARS, MERS And Ebola Jumped From Bats To People

Here are five viruses that most likely came from bats, and how the outbreaks compare.
  • Researchers traced SARS to a population of horseshoe bats in China’s Yunnan province. Humans caught it from weasel-like mammals called masked palm civets at a wet market in Guangdong
  • From 2002 to 2003, SARS killed 774 people across 29 countries and infected more than 8,000. Patients experienced fevers, headaches, and a type of deadly pneumonia that could cause respiratory failure
  • MERS, similarly, passed from bats to dromedary camels in the Middle East. That coronavirus circulated in the camel population undetected for decades before jumping to humans in 2012. So far, 858 people have died in 28 countries from the illness, which comes with fever, cough, and shortness of breath
  • In Southeast Asia, fruit bats were the original hosts of the deadly Nipah virus, which emerged in Malaysia in 1998 and then again in India in 2001. The bats passed it to farmed pigs, which gave it to people. Patients experienced headaches and vomiting; many slipped into a coma and died
  • Fruit bats in Africa have played a major role in Ebola outbreaks since 1976. The worst Ebola outbreak in history, however, came from a population of long-fingered bats. More than 11,000 people were killed from 2013 to 2016.

Fruitbat, fruit
Fruit Bat

Coronavirus: How To Prevent Zoonotic Diseases Like The Coronavirus From Spilling Over To People?

At wet markets, the close proximity of shoppers to stall vendors and live and dead animals creates a prime breeding ground for zoonotic diseases. For cultural reasons in the region, people want to see the specific animals they’re buying be slaughtered in front of them, so they know they’re receiving the products they paid for,” according to Emily Langdon, an infectious disease specialist at University of Chicago Medicine. That means there’s a lot of skinning of dead animals in front of shoppers and, as a result, aerosolizing of all sorts of things.

The most likely virus that might cause a new pandemic would be a coronavirus. We’re in an age of epidemics because:

  • of globalization
  • of encroachment on wild environments

Coronavirus, COVID-19: Human Health And Climate Change

Climate change produced many harmful effects on human health in Central China. The cardiovascu-lar mortalities increased year by year in Wuhan from 1998 to 2008. And the morbidity was highest in winter and lowest in summer. The increasing frequency and intensity of summer heat waves resulted in the increased risk of summer cardiovascular, respiratory system diseases and heat stroke.

The regional precipitation became uneven in Central China, which caused more floods and increased risk of infectious diseases like malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and conjunctivitis. The incidence of intestinal infectious diseases increased from 66.04% to 80.97% in Hubei during 1991–1997.

Climate Change Helped Snails Survive The Winter Season 

Behavioural risks that leads to the emergence of bat coronaviruses in humans

  • Bat borne coronaviruses have caused several emerging infectious disease outbreaks of global significance, including SARS. Novel SARS-related coronaviruses have been discovered in bat populations in Southern China, some of which have the capacity to infect human cells
  • Human-animal interactions are thought to be critical for the emergence of bat coronaviruses, however the specific interactions linked to animal-to-human spill over remain unknown.

Coronaviris: New Findings

This study found serological evidence for bat-borne coronavirus transmission to people. Direct contact with bats was not identified as a risk factor. However, self-reported severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and/or influenza-like illness (ILI) was linked to human interaction with other wildlife and livestock, suggesting that there may be other zoonotic exposures leading to clinical illness in these populations.

Dogs, cages, legs
Vendors wait for customers as dogs are kept in a cage at Dashichang dog market ahead of a local dog meat festival in Yulin, Guangxi Autonomous Region

Human interaction with animals has been implicated as a primary risk factor for several high impact zoonoses, including many bat-origin viral diseases. However the animal-to-human spill over events that lead to emerging diseases are rarely observed or clinically examined, and the link between specific interactions and spill over risk is poorly understood.

To investigate this phenomenon, researchers conducted biological-behavioural surveillance among rural residents in Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong districts of Southern China, where we have identified a number of SARS-related coronaviruses in bats. Serum samples were tested for four bat-borne coronaviruses using newly developed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Survey data were used to characterize associations between human-animal contact and bat coronavirus spill over risk.

Coronavirus From Animals To Humans

A total of 1,596 residents were enrolled in the study from 2015 to 2017

Nine participants (0.6%) tested positive for bat coronaviruses. 265 (17%) participants reported severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and/or influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms in the past year, which were associated with poultry, carnivore, rodent/shrew, or bat contact, with variability by family income and district of residence. This study provides serological evidence of bat coronavirus spill over in rural communities in Southern China. The low seroprevalence observed in this study suggests that bat coronavirus spill over is a rare event.

Nonetheless, this study highlights associations between human-animal interaction and zoonotic spill over risk. These findings can be used to support targeted biological behavioural surveillance in high-risk geographic areas in order to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease emergence.

Coronavirus, COVID-19: Interaction Between Humans And Animals A health Risk?

In the highly biodiverse southern region of China, interactions among humans, wildlife, and livestock are likely to be common, and are hypothesized to be a risk factor in the emergence of zoonotic infectious diseases. Human-animal interactions may pose a particular public health threat in rural communities where frequent contact with animals occurs and where disease prevention measures are likely less well-developed.

What is a hypothesis?
In science, a hypothesis is an idea or explanation that you then test through study and experimentation. Outside science, a theory or guess can also be called a hypothesis. A hypothesis is something more than a wild guess but less than a well-established theory.

2 girls, sticks, houses

Although human-animal interactions are thought to be associated with zoonotic disease emergence, few studies have addressed the nature of specific interactions that occur between animals (particularly wild animals) and humans that lead to pathogen spill over.

  • Bats (order Chiroptera) are reservoirs of a large number of zoonotic viruses, including coronaviruses (CoVs) that have caused disease outbreaks in human and livestock populations
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the causative agent of the SARS outbreak affecting 32 countries in 2002-3, infecting 8,096 people and causing 774 deaths
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has caused 823 deaths from 2,374 human cases in 27 countries by the end of February 2019, and is thought to have originally spilled over from bats into camels, in which is it now endemic
  • Severe acute diarrhoea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV) which emerged in the pig population of Southern China and caused the deaths of more than 20,000 piglets in 2017 and 2018
  • A large diversity of coronaviruses, including SARS-related Coronaviruses (SARSr-CoVs), has been discovered in bats, and phylogenetic and pathogenesis studies of these suggest a high capacity for transmission across species barriers.

However, few studies have analysed bat-to-human spill over events in non-outbreak conditions, likely due to the rarity of these events and difficulties in identifying at-risk populations or target geographies. Additionally, the symptoms of novel bat coronavirus infection in the human population may not be clinically recognized at the time of emergence as a result of a lack of adequate surveillance or confusion with other diseases. This represents a significant biosafety risk considering the large and increasing number of coronaviruses discovered in bats and the wide distribution of bat populations in rural regions such as Southern China. We report on a study designed to characterize the bat coronavirus spill over potential associated with presumed high-risk human behaviour in rural communities of Southern China.

woman, ruaral area, goats

Human Populations Close To bats And Wildlife

A cross-sectional study was done in the districts of Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong, China, which are known for their high levels of wildlife biodiversity, active wildlife trade activity, and historic zoonotic disease emergence events. Eight study sites were selected in areas where we have previously reported diverse coronaviruses in bat populations roosting close (within 5 km) to human dwellings.

The study targeted human populations that are highly exposed to bats and other wildlife, including people who visit or work around bat caves, work in local live animal markets, raise animals, or are involved in wildlife trade (e.g., wild animal harvest, trade, transportation, and preparation), as identified by previous exploratory ethnographic interviews.

2 Men, catched rats

Recruitment and sampling

We aimed to obtain a minimum sample size of 400 participants from each of the three districts (Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong), for a total sample size of over 1,200 participants. A snowball sampling method was used because the population size at selected sites and the people who were highly exposed to wild animals were difficult to elucidate.

Results

From October 2015 to July 2017, a total of 1,596 residents from eight sites in Yunnan (n=761), Guangxi (n=412), and Guangdong (n=423) provinces were enrolled in this study. Of these, 1,585 participants completed the questionnaires and 11 participants withdrew from the questionnaire interview due to scheduling reasons. After the interviews, 1,497 participants provided biological samples for lab analysis.

Demographics

More female (62%) than male (38%) community members participated in this study. Most participants were adults over 45 years old (69%) and had been living in the community for more than 5 years (97%) with their family members (95%). A majority (86%) relied on a comparatively low family annual per capita income less than 10,000 RMB which is below the national mean for per capita disposable income of rural households from 2015 to 2017 (11,422 - 13,432 RMB). Most participants (98%) had not received a college education and were making a living in crop production (76%). 9% of participants frequently traveled outside the county as migrant laborers. Some participants were working in sectors where frequent human-animal contact occurs, such as the animal production business (1.7%), wild animal trade (0.5%), slaughterhouses or abattoirs (0.5%), protected nature reserve rangers (0.4%) or in wildlife restaurants (0.3%). It was common for participants to have multiple part-time jobs as income sources (Table 1)

Animal contact and exposure to bat Coronaviruses

Serological testing of serum samples from 1,497 local residents revealed that 9 individuals (0.6%) in four study sites were positive for bat coronaviruses, indicating exposure at some point in their life to bat-borne SARSr-CoVs and HKU10-CoV or other coronaviruses that are phylogenetically closely related to these. All individuals who tested positive (male=6, female=3) were over 45 years old, and most (n=8) were making a living from crop production. None of those participants reported any symptoms in the 12 months preceding the interview.

Due to the low rate of sero-positivity, we did not obtain robust results from the statistical comparisons of animal-contact behaviour by coronavirus outcome. Among the 1,585 participants who responded, 265 (17%) reported experiencing SARI (n = 73) and/or ILI (n = 227) symptoms in the last year.

Some demographic variables were associated with self-reported SARI and/or ILI symptoms as either independent or interactive terms. For example, respondents aged 41 to 60 and residents of Yunnan province were less likely to report symptoms. Slaughtering poultry was positively associated with the outcome only in Guangxi residents, whereas the association was negative in Guangdong residents. Family income also showed interactions, with family income less than 10,000 RMB being positively associated with the outcome in respondents who raised poultry but negatively associated in respondents who cooked or handled poultry. Gender was not found to be salient in either direction.

Girl, bike, chicken, cages

Attitudes towards zoonotic diseases emergence

When asked about animals and disease transmission, more than half of the study participants believed that animals could spread disease and were worried about disease emergence from animals at wet markets. Of those worried about disease emergence, 46% purchased animals from wet markets in the past 12 months. Among all participants who purchased animals from wet markets in the past 12 months 32%), some  39% took protection measures or strategies such as washing hands, purchasing live animals less often 30%, or purchasing meat at supermarkets instead of live animal markets. Very few participants considered wearing a mask 1% or gloves  1%) while visiting the markets.

Discussion

Used was a novel human surveillance approach to integrate serological and behavioural data to characterize associations between human-animal contact and zoonotic disease spill over risk in Southern China. This study provides the first serological evidence of bat-borne SARSr-CoVs and HKU10-CoV transmission to people and highlights potential spill over pathways through animal contact.

Given the high diversity and recombination rate of bat coronaviruses, and close relationship of SARSr-CoVs to SARS-CoV, it is possible that exposure to these coronaviruses may lead to disease emergence in human populations.

Continuous surveillance of both human and bat populations, as well as further pathogenesis studies of these viruses, are important to determine the extent of the disease risk.Contact with animals was prevalent among the survey population.

tree-shrew

Raising poultry and having rodents/shrews in the house were the most common types of contact.

It’s important to note that the questionnaire used broad classification of the type of animals for these exposures due to the presumed variability in respondent’s capacity to identify species or genera of wildlife. It is likely that the most significant exposure we identified (to carnivores) reflects animals as diverse as civets, porcupines, ferret badgers and taxas that respondents recognized as non-rodent and non-shrew. This study also assessed health risks from human interaction activities for each study participant in the survey based on their travel history and the health history of people who they lived with. The goal was to minimize the possibility that illness was caused by human-to-human transmission of pathogens causing ILI and/or SARI symptoms.

researchers did not find evidence supporting a direct relationship between bat contact and bat coronavirus sero-positivity in the human population. However, there is frequent contact with domestic animals in these communities and it is known that other bat-borne viruses have been transmitted to humans via livestock (e.g. henipavirses and filoviruses). It is possible that these findings reflect other indirect exposures to bat CoVs, and future surveillance may benefit from including a wide range of livestock and peri-domestic animals in viral and serological studies to identify potential spill over pathways.

While the majority of survey respondents believed that animals could spread disease and were worried about disease emergence from animals at wet markets, many did not take measures to protect themselves from exposure. Further work on what drives these local attitudes to risk may help in developing risk-mitigation behaviour change programs. A number of affordable and readily adaptable measures could be targeted to these at-risk populations, including the use of gloves and masks while killing or butchering animals, and handwashing.

The low levels of sero-positivity found in the study could reflect a number of factors:

  • the rarity of spill over and bat-to-human transmission, as has been reported for other virus-host systems
  • the use of a snowball technique for sample selection that could have biased the population sampled
  • the limited diversity of CoVs that this study tested for
  • the possibility that these infections cause high mortality rates and therefore the number of survivors and number of seropositive people is low, although this seems unlikely because the mortality rate from SARS was >10% during an outbreak that included hospital exposure and therefore likely high infectious doses
  • that antibodies to these viruses wane rapidly in humans. The latter hypothesis is supported by findings that antibodies to SARS decline rapidly (2–3 years) after illness.

Expanding this approach to a larger population, using a longitudinal (repeated sampling) approach, and targeting people who are in the higher-risk categories identified here may provide a larger number of sero-positives and more critical information on the driving factors of viral spill over.

However, despite the small sample sizes, this study suggests that there are a substantial number of people in rural Southern China who are exposed to bat-borne viruses, and that exposure likely occurs through the daily or normal practices of rural communities, rather than specific high-risk behaviours (e.g. wild animal hunting). Considering the proven potential of some SARSr-CoVs currently circulating in bats in southern China, to infect human cells, cause clinical signs in humanized mouse models, and lead to infections that cannot be treated with monoclonal therapies effective against SARS-CoV this represents a clear and present danger to our biosafety and public health. Further studies to determine the relationship between SARSr-CoV and HKU10-CoV exposure and illness in people may help elucidate this risk and provide critical mitigation strategies.

What About the Bats?

Bat populations in China appear to have decreased considerably in the last 30 years. China has a rich bat fauna, with 100 species described and taxonomic research on bats has increased in the last 2 decades.

Four reasons may have been responsible:

  • Extensive pesticide use has resulted in bioaccumulation in bats, reducing their survival
  • Many old buildings were demolished during urbanization, reducing the availability of suitable roost sites
  • People often include bats in their diet, and bats are served in restaurants. We make recommendations for improving bat conservation in China. Education programmes about bat conservation should be provided for adults and schoolchildren, and laws for protecting bats need to be enacted and enforced. The roosting sites of bats should be protected comprehensively, and pesticide use should be regulated
  • Cave exploitation for tourism has changed the atmosphere and temperature in caves,disturbing bats directly

bats in caves

The flow of visitors causes fluctuations in carbon dioxide content and temperature, and cave topography and dimensions affect the accumulation and diffusion of the gas, disturbing bats directly for example, the maximum CO2 content increased from 1,000 to 7,000 ppm in the chamber in Baiyun Cave, Hebei, after c. 3,000 people visited for 5 hours, and the temperature increased from 16.8 to 19.6.

The effects of disturbance on bats and other cave fauna have seldom been studied in China. Lighting schemes have been installed for visitors without any consideration of the effects on bats and other cave animals, paths have been constructed, and gates at cave entrances for managing visitors are often unsuitable for flying bats to negotiate. The population of fruit bat Rousettus leschenaulti in Yiling Cave in Guangxi Province, for example, decreased from c. 5,000 to 2,000 after cave tourism was implemented in 1993.

Yiling Cave in Guangxi Province stalagmites, many colors
Yiling Cave in Guangxi Province

Based on surveys of bats in China, combined with enquiries to local people, we estimate that the bat population may have decreased by 60% in the last 30 years.

Bats provide important ecosystem services, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and controlling pests. However many people in China regard bats as vermin because some species feed on economically important fruits, such as longan and litchi. Bats are also regarded as nefarious animals because they fly in the dark.

3 logan fruit

Before the emergence of the SARS virus many restaurants in Guangzhou and other cities in south China offered bats, and live bats were also sold in markets. In some remote villages our surveys have repeatedly revealed that local people capture wild bats to eat, to meet their protein requirements. We have also found bamboo wattles, used to kill bats, in caves.

There are additional factors causing decreases of bat populations in China. Many forests were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and vast steel-making and iron-smelting facilities were established, resulting in the loss of many roosting sites and foraging areas.

Recently, many small paper mills have been built, resulting in the clear-cutting of forests and their replacement with the fast growing eucalypts that are preferred by the mills. We have found that many limestone hills excavated to make cement have lost their bat-roosting caves. No bat species are included in the lists of wildlife under special state protection (1989 Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife), and no nature reserves protect bat species or their roost sites.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak is another reminder that people should limit the consumption of wild animals to prevent zoonotic infections.

Before you go!

Recommended: Climate Change Causes Nature To Change: The World Affected

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Coronavirus, COVID-19: From Pangolin, Snake Or Bat. Fact?

The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 2.804+ people, 82.186+ people are proven infected worldwide with the coronavirus (Thursday, 27-02-2020). The Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumps from animals to humans.  The Coronivirus: What Was The Intermediate Host The SARS coronavirus, which killed 774 people in the early 2000s, jumped from bats to civets to people. The Wuhan coronavirus is also thought to have originated in bats, which may have passed the disease to snakes or Pangolins, which then passed it to humans. Snakes Could Be the Original Source of the New Coronavirus Outbreak in China. A study of the virus’s genetic sequence suggests similarities to that seen in snakes, but is it? Recommended:  Coronavirus COVID-19: Worse Then Thought: A Must Read Update SARS and MERS: The Bat, The Masked Palm Civet And Camels Both SARS and MERS are classified as zoonotic viral diseases, meaning the first patients who were infected acquired these viruses directly from animals. This was possible because while in the animal host, the virus had acquired a series of genetic mutations that allowed it to infect and multiply inside humans. How do docters test for SARS? Lab tests to detect SARS virus include a blood test, a nasal swab or a sample from your stool or urine, or growing the virus in culture. Now these viruses can be transmitted from person to person. Field studies have revealed that the original source of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV is the bat, and that the masked palm civets (a mammal native to Asia and Africa) and camels, respectively, served as intermediate hosts between bats and humans. How do you test for MERS? Molecular Tests Real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) assays are molecular tests that can be used to detect viral RNA in clinical samples.  Most state laboratories in the United States are approved to test for MERS-CoV by using an rRT-PCR assay developed by CDC. From Bats To Snakes: The Wuhan Market In the case of this 2019 coronavirus outbreak, reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalized were workers or customers at a local seafood wholesale market which also sold processed meats and live consumable animals including: poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles. However, since no one has ever reported finding a coronavirus infecting aquatic animals, it is plausible that the coronavirus may have originated from other animals sold in that market. The hypothesis that the 2019-nCoV jumped from an animal at the market is strongly supported by a new publication in the Journal of Medical Virology. The scientists conducted an analysis and compared the genetic sequences of 2019-nCoV and all other known coronaviruses. From Bats To Pangolins Some Chinese researchers investigating the pangolin as possible origin of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China. Friday they said that the endangered pangolin may be the ‘missing link’ between bats and humans, but other scientists said the search may not be over. An earlier study pointed to snakes, and there remain numerous candidate species in the Wuhan wildlife market thought to be ground zero of the epidemic. But according to Arnaud Fontanet, from France's Pasteur Institute, the disease likely didn't jump straight from bats to humans. "We think there's another animal that's an intermediary." Fontanet believes the intermediary was ‘probably a mammal’, possible belonging to the badger family. {youtube}                                                              Pangolins - The world's most trafficked animal After testing more than 1,000 samples from wild animals, scientists at the South China Agricultural University found the genome sequences of viruses in pangolins to be 99 percent identical to those on coronavirus patients, the official Xinhua news agency reported. "This is not scientific evidence," said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge. "Investigations into animal reservoirs are extremely important, but results must be then be published for international scrutiny." "Simply reporting detection of viral RNA with sequence similarity of 99+ percent is not sufficient," he added. Eric Leroy, a virologist and vet at the IRD said the search could well turn up a result quickly like in the case of SARS. Equally, it could take years. Chinese Ferret Badger The study of the genetic code of 2019-nCoV reveals that the new virus is most closely related to two bat SARS-like coronavirus samples from China, initially suggesting that, like SARS and MERS, the bat might also be the origin of 2019-nCoV. The authors further found that the DNA coding sequence of 2019-nCoV spike protein, which forms the ‘crown’ of the virus particle that recognizes the receptor on a host cell, indicates that the bat virus might have mutated before infecting people. But when the researchers performed a more detailed bioinformatics analysis of the sequence of 2019-nCoV, it suggests that this coronavirus might come from snakes. Recommended:  Coronavirus, Flu And Climate Change: Is There A Connection? Coronavirus: Protein Codes From Snakes The researchers used an analysis of the protein codes favoured by the new coronavirus and compared it to the protein codes from coronaviruses found in different animal hosts, like birds, snakes, marmots, hedgehogs, manis, bats and humans. Surprisingly, they found that the protein codes in the 2019-nCoV are most similar to those used in snakes. What does a gene code for a protein? The journey from gene to protein is complex and tightly controlled within each cell. The type of RNA that contains the information for making a protein is called messenger RNA (mRNA) because it carries the information, or message, from the DNA out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm.                                                   Snakes Hunt Bats In A Cave | Planet Earth | BBC Earth Snakes often hunt for bats in wild . Reports indicate that snakes were sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan, raising the possibility that the 2019-nCoV might have jumped from the host species—bats—to snakes and then to humans at the beginning of this coronavirus outbreak. However, how the virus could adapt to both the cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts remains a mystery. Researchers must verify the origin of the virus through laboratory experiments. Searching for the 2019-nCoV sequence in snakes would be the first thing to do. However, since the outbreak, the seafood market has been disinfected and shut down, which makes it challenging to trace the new virus’ source animal. Sampling DNA from animals sold at the market and from wild snakes and bats is needed to confirm the origin of the virus. Nonetheless, the reported findings will also provide insights for developing prevention and treatment protocols. Recommended:  Coronavirus: Bill Gates, 65 Million Death In A Simulation Coronavirus And Sars: Passed From Animals To Humans In a Wet Market The coronavirus spreading in China and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common: Both are from the coronavirus family and both were passed from animals to humans in a wet market. Poorly regulated live-animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spill over from wildlife hosts into the human population. In the case of SARS, and probably this coronavirus outbreak too, bats were the original hosts. They then infected other animals via their poop or saliva, and the unwitting intermediaries transmitted the virus to humans. What does zoonotic mean? Zoonosis is another name for a zoonotic disease. This type of disease passes from an animal or insect to a human. Some don't make the animal sick but will sicken a human. Zoonotic diseases range from minor short-term illness to a major life-changing illness. Certain ones can even cause death. Chinese 'wet market'.  Coronavirus, COVID-19: Bats & Birds Reservoir Species For Viruses Bats and birds are considered reservoir species for viruses with pandemic potential according Bart Haagmans, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the past 45 years, at least three other pandemics (besides SARS) have been traced back to bats. The creatures were the original source of Ebola, which has killed 13,500 people in multiple outbreaks since 1976: Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, better known as MERS, which can be found in 28 countries The Nipah virus, which has a 78% fatality rate The coronavirus might have jumped from bats to snakes to people Not all coronaviruses are deadly, the ones endemic to humans, like the common cold, are often considered inconsequential. The coronaviruses that pose a pandemic risk, however, are those that hang out in animals. Because these viruses have not been circulating in humans before, specific immunity to these viruses is absent in humans. Coronavirus: Wuhan Experts haven’t yet confirmed the animal species that enabled it to spread to people, but they have some guesses. Scientists in China compared the genetic code of the Wuhan coronavirus to other coronaviruses and found it to be most similar to two bat coronavirus samples. Coronaviris via The Chinese Cobra? There’s an indication that it’s a bat virus said Vincent Munster, a scientist at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. According to a group of scientists who edit the Journal of Medical Virology, the intermediary species in this case could be the Chinese cobra. How do Coronaviruses spread? Coronaviruses primarily spread through close contact with another individual, in particular through coughing and sneezing on somebody else who is within a range of about 3 to 6 feet from that person. If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface a countertop, for example  and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, for example, the latter may get sick. That’s because further genetic analysis showed that the genetic building blocks of the Wuhan coronavirus closely resembled that of snakes. So the researchers think a population of bats could have infected snakes, which passed the virus to humans as they were being sold at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan. But the only way to be sure about where the virus came from is to take DNA samples from animals sold at that market and from wild snakes and bats in the area. Coronavirus: Why Bats Pose Such A Threat Bats harbour a significantly higher proportion of zoonotic viruses than other mammals, according to a 2017 study. Experts think that’s because bats can fly across large geographical ranges, transporting diseases as they go. That makes them an ideal host.  Bats pass along viruses in their poop: If they drop feces onto a piece of fruit that a different animal then eats, the creature can become a carrier. We know a fair amount of viruses on the World Health Organization’s Blueprint list of priority diseases have either a direct or indirect link with bats,” Munster said. (The list includes the SARS and MERS viruses.) Last March, a study even predicted that bats could be the source of a new coronavirus outbreak in China. It is highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China. That’s because: The majority of coronaviruses – those that circulate both in humans and in animals – can be found in China Plus, the study authors said, most of the bat hosts of these coronaviruses live near humans in China, potentially transmitting viruses to humans and livestock The bat population from which the SARS virus originated, for example, lived in a cave just over 1 kilometre, or about half a mile, from the nearest village Similarly, a 2017 study warned that the risk of spill over into people and emergence of a disease similar to SARS is possible. The authors identified at least 300 separate strains of coronaviruses still circulating in bats. How SARS, MERS And Ebola Jumped From Bats To People Here are five viruses that most likely came from bats, and how the outbreaks compare. Researchers traced SARS to a population of horseshoe bats in China’s Yunnan province. Humans caught it from weasel-like mammals called masked palm civets at a wet market in Guangdong From 2002 to 2003, SARS killed 774 people across 29 countries and infected more than 8,000. Patients experienced fevers, headaches, and a type of deadly pneumonia that could cause respiratory failure MERS, similarly, passed from bats to dromedary camels in the Middle East. That coronavirus circulated in the camel population undetected for decades before jumping to humans in 2012. So far, 858 people have died in 28 countries from the illness, which comes with fever, cough, and shortness of breath In Southeast Asia, fruit bats were the original hosts of the deadly Nipah virus, which emerged in Malaysia in 1998 and then again in India in 2001. The bats passed it to farmed pigs, which gave it to people. Patients experienced headaches and vomiting; many slipped into a coma and died Fruit bats in Africa have played a major role in Ebola outbreaks since 1976. The worst Ebola outbreak in history, however, came from a population of long-fingered bats. More than 11,000 people were killed from 2013 to 2016. Fruit Bat Coronavirus: How To Prevent Zoonotic Diseases Like The Coronavirus From Spilling Over To People? At wet markets, the close proximity of shoppers to stall vendors and live and dead animals creates a prime breeding ground for zoonotic diseases. For cultural reasons in the region, people want to see the specific animals they’re buying be slaughtered in front of them, so they know they’re receiving the products they paid for,” according to Emily Langdon, an infectious disease specialist at University of Chicago Medicine. That means there’s a lot of skinning of dead animals in front of shoppers and, as a result, aerosolizing of all sorts of things. The most likely virus that might cause a new pandemic would be a coronavirus. We’re in an age of epidemics because: of globalization of encroachment on wild environments Coronavirus, COVID-19: Human Health And Climate Change Climate change produced many harmful effects on human health in Central China. The cardiovascu-lar mortalities increased year by year in Wuhan from 1998 to 2008. And the morbidity was highest in winter and lowest in summer. The increasing frequency and intensity of summer heat waves resulted in the increased risk of summer cardiovascular, respiratory system diseases and heat stroke. The regional precipitation became uneven in Central China, which caused more floods and increased risk of infectious diseases like malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and conjunctivitis. The incidence of intestinal infectious diseases increased from 66.04% to 80.97% in Hubei during 1991–1997. Climate Change Helped Snails Survive The Winter Season  Behavioural risks that leads to the emergence of bat coronaviruses in humans Bat borne coronaviruses have caused several emerging infectious disease outbreaks of global significance, including SARS. Novel SARS-related coronaviruses have been discovered in bat populations in Southern China, some of which have the capacity to infect human cells Human-animal interactions are thought to be critical for the emergence of bat coronaviruses, however the specific interactions linked to animal-to-human spill over remain unknown. Coronaviris: New Findings This study found serological evidence for bat-borne coronavirus transmission to people. Direct contact with bats was not identified as a risk factor. However, self-reported severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and/or influenza-like illness (ILI) was linked to human interaction with other wildlife and livestock, suggesting that there may be other zoonotic exposures leading to clinical illness in these populations. Vendors wait for customers as dogs are kept in a cage at Dashichang dog market ahead of a local dog meat festival in Yulin, Guangxi Autonomous Region Human interaction with animals has been implicated as a primary risk factor for several high impact zoonoses, including many bat-origin viral diseases. However the animal-to-human spill over events that lead to emerging diseases are rarely observed or clinically examined, and the link between specific interactions and spill over risk is poorly understood. To investigate this phenomenon, researchers conducted biological-behavioural surveillance among rural residents in Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong districts of Southern China, where we have identified a number of SARS-related coronaviruses in bats. Serum samples were tested for four bat-borne coronaviruses using newly developed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Survey data were used to characterize associations between human-animal contact and bat coronavirus spill over risk. Coronavirus From Animals To Humans A total of 1,596 residents were enrolled in the study from 2015 to 2017 Nine participants (0.6%) tested positive for bat coronaviruses . 265 (17%) participants reported severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and/or influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms in the past year, which were associated with poultry, carnivore, rodent/shrew, or bat contact, with variability by family income and district of residence. This study provides serological evidence of bat coronavirus spill over in rural communities in Southern China. The low seroprevalence observed in this study suggests that bat coronavirus spill over is a rare event. Nonetheless, this study highlights associations between human-animal interaction and zoonotic spill over risk. These findings can be used to support targeted biological behavioural surveillance in high-risk geographic areas in order to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease emergence. Coronavirus, COVID-19: Interaction Between Humans And Animals A health Risk? In the highly biodiverse southern region of China, interactions among humans, wildlife, and livestock are likely to be common, and are hypothesized to be a risk factor in the emergence of zoonotic infectious diseases. Human-animal interactions may pose a particular public health threat in rural communities where frequent contact with animals occurs and where disease prevention measures are likely less well-developed. What is a hypothesis? In science, a hypothesis is an idea or explanation that you then test through study and experimentation. Outside science, a theory or guess can also be called a hypothesis. A hypothesis is something more than a wild guess but less than a well-established theory. Although human-animal interactions are thought to be associated with zoonotic disease emergence, few studies have addressed the nature of specific interactions that occur between animals (particularly wild animals) and humans that lead to pathogen spill over. Bats (order Chiroptera) are reservoirs of a large number of zoonotic viruses, including coronaviruses (CoVs) that have caused disease outbreaks in human and livestock populations Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the causative agent of the SARS outbreak affecting 32 countries in 2002-3, infecting 8,096 people and causing 774 deaths Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has caused 823 deaths from 2,374 human cases in 27 countries by the end of February 2019, and is thought to have originally spilled over from bats into camels , in which is it now endemic Severe acute diarrhoea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV) which emerged in the pig population of Southern China and caused the deaths of more than 20,000 piglets in 2017 and 2018 A large diversity of coronaviruses, including SARS-related Coronaviruses (SARSr-CoVs), has been discovered in bats, and phylogenetic and pathogenesis studies of these suggest a high capacity for transmission across species barriers. However, few studies have analysed bat-to-human spill over events in non-outbreak conditions, likely due to the rarity of these events and difficulties in identifying at-risk populations or target geographies. Additionally, the symptoms of novel bat coronavirus infection in the human population may not be clinically recognized at the time of emergence as a result of a lack of adequate surveillance or confusion with other diseases. This represents a significant biosafety risk considering the large and increasing number of coronaviruses discovered in bats and the wide distribution of bat populations in rural regions such as Southern China. We report on a study designed to characterize the bat coronavirus spill over potential associated with presumed high-risk human behaviour in rural communities of Southern China. Human Populations Close To bats And Wildlife A cross-sectional study was done in the districts of Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong, China, which are known for their high levels of wildlife biodiversity, active wildlife trade activity, and historic zoonotic disease emergence events. Eight study sites were selected in areas where we have previously reported diverse coronaviruses in bat populations roosting close (within 5 km) to human dwellings. The study targeted human populations that are highly exposed to bats and other wildlife, including people who visit or work around bat caves, work in local live animal markets, raise animals, or are involved in wildlife trade (e.g., wild animal harvest, trade, transportation, and preparation), as identified by previous exploratory ethnographic interviews. Recruitment and sampling We aimed to obtain a minimum sample size of 400 participants from each of the three districts (Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong), for a total sample size of over 1,200 participants. A snowball sampling method was used because the population size at selected sites and the people who were highly exposed to wild animals were difficult to elucidate. Results From October 2015 to July 2017, a total of 1,596 residents from eight sites in Yunnan (n=761), Guangxi (n=412), and Guangdong (n=423) provinces were enrolled in this study. Of these, 1,585 participants completed the questionnaires and 11 participants withdrew from the questionnaire interview due to scheduling reasons. After the interviews, 1,497 participants provided biological samples for lab analysis. Demographics More female (62%) than male (38%) community members participated in this study. Most participants were adults over 45 years old (69%) and had been living in the community for more than 5 years (97%) with their family members (95%). A majority (86%) relied on a comparatively low family annual per capita income less than 10,000 RMB which is below the national mean for per capita disposable income of rural households from 2015 to 2017 (11,422 - 13,432 RMB). Most participants (98%) had not received a college education and were making a living in crop production (76%). 9% of participants frequently traveled outside the county as migrant laborers. Some participants were working in sectors where frequent human-animal contact occurs, such as the animal production business (1.7%), wild animal trade (0.5%), slaughterhouses or abattoirs (0.5%), protected nature reserve rangers (0.4%) or in wildlife restaurants (0.3%). It was common for participants to have multiple part-time jobs as income sources (Table 1) Animal contact and exposure to bat Coronaviruses Serological testing of serum samples from 1,497 local residents revealed that 9 individuals (0.6%) in four study sites were positive for bat coronaviruses, indicating exposure at some point in their life to bat-borne SARSr-CoVs and HKU10-CoV or other coronaviruses that are phylogenetically closely related to these. All individuals who tested positive (male=6, female=3) were over 45 years old, and most (n=8) were making a living from crop production. None of those participants reported any symptoms in the 12 months preceding the interview. Due to the low rate of sero-positivity, we did not obtain robust results from the statistical comparisons of animal-contact behaviour by coronavirus outcome. Among the 1,585 participants who responded, 265 (17%) reported experiencing SARI (n = 73) and/or ILI (n = 227) symptoms in the last year. Some demographic variables were associated with self-reported SARI and/or ILI symptoms as either independent or interactive terms. For example, respondents aged 41 to 60 and residents of Yunnan province were less likely to report symptoms. Slaughtering poultry was positively associated with the outcome only in Guangxi residents, whereas the association was negative in Guangdong residents. Family income also showed interactions, with family income less than 10,000 RMB being positively associated with the outcome in respondents who raised poultry but negatively associated in respondents who cooked or handled poultry. Gender was not found to be salient in either direction. Attitudes towards zoonotic diseases emergence When asked about animals and disease transmission, more than half of the study participants believed that animals could spread disease and were worried about disease emergence from animals at wet markets. Of those worried about disease emergence, 46% purchased animals from wet markets in the past 12 months. Among all participants who purchased animals from wet markets in the past 12 months 32%), some  39% took protection measures or strategies such as washing hands, purchasing live animals less often 30%, or purchasing meat at supermarkets instead of live animal markets. Very few participants considered wearing a mask 1% or gloves  1%) while visiting the markets. Discussion Used was a novel human surveillance approach to integrate serological and behavioural data to characterize associations between human-animal contact and zoonotic disease spill over risk in Southern China. This study provides the first serological evidence of bat-borne SARSr-CoVs and HKU10-CoV transmission to people and highlights potential spill over pathways through animal contact. Given the high diversity and recombination rate of bat coronaviruses , and close relationship of SARSr-CoVs to SARS-CoV, it is possible that exposure to these coronaviruses may lead to disease emergence in human populations. Continuous surveillance of both human and bat populations, as well as further pathogenesis studies of these viruses, are important to determine the extent of the disease risk.Contact with animals was prevalent among the survey population. Raising poultry and having rodents/shrews in the house were the most common types of contact. It’s important to note that the questionnaire used broad classification of the type of animals for these exposures due to the presumed variability in respondent’s capacity to identify species or genera of wildlife. It is likely that the most significant exposure we identified (to carnivores) reflects animals as diverse as civets, porcupines, ferret badgers and taxas that respondents recognized as non-rodent and non-shrew. This study also assessed health risks from human interaction activities for each study participant in the survey based on their travel history and the health history of people who they lived with. The goal was to minimize the possibility that illness was caused by human-to-human transmission of pathogens causing ILI and/or SARI symptoms. researchers did not find evidence supporting a direct relationship between bat contact and bat coronavirus sero-positivity in the human population . However, there is frequent contact with domestic animals in these communities and it is known that other bat-borne viruses have been transmitted to humans via livestock (e.g. henipavirses and filoviruses). It is possible that these findings reflect other indirect exposures to bat CoVs, and future surveillance may benefit from including a wide range of livestock and peri-domestic animals in viral and serological studies to identify potential spill over pathways. While the majority of survey respondents believed that animals could spread disease and were worried about disease emergence from animals at wet markets, many did not take measures to protect themselves from exposure. Further work on what drives these local attitudes to risk may help in developing risk-mitigation behaviour change programs. A number of affordable and readily adaptable measures could be targeted to these at-risk populations, including the use of gloves and masks while killing or butchering animals, and handwashing. The low levels of sero-positivity found in the study could reflect a number of factors: the rarity of spill over and bat-to-human transmission, as has been reported for other virus-host systems the use of a snowball technique for sample selection that could have biased the population sampled the limited diversity of CoVs that this study tested for the possibility that these infections cause high mortality rates and therefore the number of survivors and number of seropositive people is low, although this seems unlikely because the mortality rate from SARS was >10% during an outbreak that included hospital exposure and therefore likely high infectious doses that antibodies to these viruses wane rapidly in humans. The latter hypothesis is supported by findings that antibodies to SARS decline rapidly (2–3 years) after illness. Expanding this approach to a larger population, using a longitudinal (repeated sampling) approach, and targeting people who are in the higher-risk categories identified here may provide a larger number of sero-positives and more critical information on the driving factors of viral spill over. However, despite the small sample sizes, this study suggests that there are a substantial number of people in rural Southern China who are exposed to bat-borne viruses, and that exposure likely occurs through the daily or normal practices of rural communities, rather than specific high-risk behaviours (e.g. wild animal hunting). Considering the proven potential of some SARSr-CoVs currently circulating in bats in southern China, to infect human cells, cause clinical signs in humanized mouse models, and lead to infections that cannot be treated with monoclonal therapies effective against SARS-CoV this represents a clear and present danger to our biosafety and public health. Further studies to determine the relationship between SARSr-CoV and HKU10-CoV exposure and illness in people may help elucidate this risk and provide critical mitigation strategies. What About the Bats? Bat populations in China appear to have decreased considerably in the last 30 years. China has a rich bat fauna, with 100 species described and taxonomic research on bats has increased in the last 2 decades. Four reasons may have been responsible: Extensive pesticide use has resulted in bioaccumulation in bats, reducing their survival Many old buildings were demolished during urbanization, reducing the availability of suitable roost sites People often include bats in their diet, and bats are served in restaurants. We make recommendations for improving bat conservation in China. Education programmes about bat conservation should be provided for adults and schoolchildren, and laws for protecting bats need to be enacted and enforced. The roosting sites of bats should be protected comprehensively, and pesticide use should be regulated Cave exploitation for tourism has changed the atmosphere and temperature in caves,disturbing bats directly The flow of visitors causes fluctuations in carbon dioxide content and temperature, and cave topography and dimensions affect the accumulation and diffusion of the gas, disturbing bats directly for example, the maximum CO2 content increased from 1,000 to 7,000 ppm in the chamber in Baiyun Cave, Hebei, after c. 3,000 people visited for 5 hours, and the temperature increased from 16.8 to 19.6. The effects of disturbance on bats and other cave fauna have seldom been studied in China. Lighting schemes have been installed for visitors without any consideration of the effects on bats and other cave animals, paths have been constructed, and gates at cave entrances for managing visitors are often unsuitable for flying bats to negotiate. The population of fruit bat Rousettus leschenaulti in Yiling Cave in Guangxi Province, for example, decreased from c. 5,000 to 2,000 after cave tourism was implemented in 1993. Yiling Cave in Guangxi Province Based on surveys of bats in China, combined with enquiries to local people, we estimate that the bat population may have decreased by 60% in the last 30 years. Bats provide important ecosystem services, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and controlling pests. However many people in China regard bats as vermin because some species feed on economically important fruits, such as longan and litchi. Bats are also regarded as nefarious animals because they fly in the dark. Before the emergence of the SARS virus many restaurants in Guangzhou and other cities in south China offered bats, and live bats were also sold in markets. In some remote villages our surveys have repeatedly revealed that local people capture wild bats to eat, to meet their protein requirements. We have also found bamboo wattles, used to kill bats, in caves. There are additional factors causing decreases of bat populations in China. Many forests were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and vast steel-making and iron-smelting facilities were established, resulting in the loss of many roosting sites and foraging areas. Recently, many small paper mills have been built, resulting in the clear-cutting of forests and their replacement with the fast growing eucalypts that are preferred by the mills. We have found that many limestone hills excavated to make cement have lost their bat-roosting caves. No bat species are included in the lists of wildlife under special state protection (1989 Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife), and no nature reserves protect bat species or their roost sites. The 2019-nCoV outbreak is another reminder that people should limit the consumption of wild animals to prevent zoonotic infections. Before you go! 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