Bats Carry Dangerous Viruses: Why Don’t They Get Sick?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
bats-mattaeMatae Ahn,MD-PhD candidate
Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme
Duke-NUS Medical School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Bats, as the only flying mammals, are ‘special’ in their ability to host many highprofile viruses without suffering from disease. Such viruses including Ebola virus, Nipah virus and SARS or MERS coronaviruses, are highly pathogenic and often lethal to humans or animals, but yet cause no or minimal disease in bats. In addition, they also live very long relative to their small body size, despite elevated metabolic rates. However, what makes them special is still unclear.

In this study, we discovered dampened NLRP3-mediated inflammation in bats in response to both ‘sterile’ stressors and infection with three different types of zoonotic RNA viruses. We identified multiple molecular mechanisms of altered bat NLRP3, a critical regulator of virus-induced and age-related inflammation, as the cause. Importantly, the reduced inflammation had no effect on the viral loads, which suggests enhanced immune tolerance to infection in bats. Bats’ natural ability to dampen stress-related and virusinduced inflammation may be a key mechanism underlying their long lifespans and unique viral reservoir status.  Continue reading