By catching bats, these ‘virus hunters’ hope to stop the next pandemic.

Researchers with a headgear and protective suit race to unravel the paws and wings of bats caught in a large net after dark in the Philippine region of Laguna.

The tiny animals are carefully placed in cloth bags for removal, measurement and swabbed, with details recorded and saliva and fecal material collected for inspection before being returned to the desert.

The researchers identify themselves as “virus hunters,” tasked with capturing thousands of bats to develop a simulation model that they hope will help the world with a pandemic similar to COVID-19, which killed nearly 2.8 million people.

The Japanese-funded model will be developed over the next three years by the University of the Philippines Los Banos, which hopes the bats will help predict coronavirus dynamics by making analysis of factors such as climate, temperature and ease of transmission, to humans included.

“What we’re trying to do is to study other strains of coronavirus that have the potential to jump to humans,” said ecologist Phillip Alviola, the group’s leader, who has studied bat viruses for more on ten years.

“If we know the virus itself and know where it came from, we know how to identify that virus in place.”

In addition to laboratory work, the research calls for long field trips, including an hour-long trek through dense rainforest and delicate night walks on rock-covered mountains, tree roots, mud and mud. moss.

Bat ecologist Phillip Alviola keeps a captured bat from Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna district. | REUTERS
Filipino bat ecologists Phillip Alviola and Kirk Taray set a fog net near bat habitat on Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna district.  |  REUTERS
Filipino bat ecologists Phillip Alviola and Kirk Taray set a fog net near bat habitat on Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna district. | REUTERS

The group will also focus on bat roses in buildings, setting up fog nets before dusk to catch bats and taking out lantern-lit samples.

Each bat is held steady by the head as researchers insert tiny swabs in their mouths and record wing vans with plastic rulers, to see which one is more than 1,300 species. and 20 families of bats most susceptible to disease and why.

Researchers wear protective suits, masks and gloves when communicating with bats, as a warning against catching viruses.

“It’s really awesome these days,” said Edison Cosico, who supports Alviola. “You never know if the bat is already a carrier.

“What we have found out is that there are more viruses from bats that can be passed on to humans. We will never know if the next one is just like COVID. “

Edison Cosico, administrative assistant at the UPLB Museum of Natural History, holds a taxi sample of foxes flying from the Rabor Wildlife Collection at the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Los Banos.  |  REUTERS
Edison Cosico, administrative assistant at the UPLB Museum of Natural History, holds a taxi sample of foxes flying from the Rabor Wildlife Collection at the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Los Banos. | REUTERS
Scientists wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from getting bats while setting up a smoke net at Los Banos Philippines University.  |  REUTERS
Scientists wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from getting bats while setting up a smoke net at Los Banos Philippines University. | REUTERS

Most coronaviruses are known to be horseshoe bats, including their closest relatives to the novel coronavirus.

Horse bats are appearing in two of the cases of World Health Organization experts investigating the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Host species, such as bats, usually show no signs of the pathogens, although they can be devastating if transmitted to humans or other animals.

Fatal viruses derived from bats include Ebola and other coronaviruses, SARS (severe respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome).

The human exposure and closer interaction with wildlife meant that the risk of spreading disease was now higher than ever, said bat ecologist Kirk Taray.

“By obtaining baseline data on the nature and potential of the zoonotic virus in bats, we can somehow predict the possible occurrences of the bat. to be there. ”

Hundreds of bat taxi samples from the Rabor Wildlife Collection are maintained at the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Los Banos.  |  REUTERS
Hundreds of bat taxi samples from the Rabor Wildlife Collection are maintained at the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Los Banos. | REUTERS

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