Hendra virus: the threat of another pandemic? Hungry bats can carry a killer virus

The Hendra virus is on the rise. Scientists have discovered that the pathogen can increasingly be transmitted to animals and people by hungry bats. Four people died after the infection. Is another pandemic coming?

Since the coronavirus is spreading around the world, there have been even more warnings about zoonotic diseases. This means that animals can transmit viruses to humans. Recently, scientists discovered Ebola-like viruses in monkeys, but also existing viruses such as the Marburg virus are gaining scientists. This also applies to the bat-borne Hendra virus.

Is there a new pandemic? Hendra virus can be transmitted by hungry bats

Scientists from the US and Australia have found in a new study that hungry bats secrete more viruses than when they have plenty of food. This becomes a problem when they find food scarce and approach humans and livestock for food. In a professional journal “Nature” published research that looked at the Hendra virus. To understand how the virus is transmitted, scientists have collected enough data over the past 25 years.

They took samples from bats living in areas with eucalypts. Flying foxes shed more virus in winters when there was less nectar. Eucalyptus nectar is one of the main food sources for mammals. When they bloom, they nest in trees. During this time, they were able to fight the virus thanks to their active immune systems. However, due to climate change and deforestation, they are being pushed out of their natural habitat and have less food. “We can hypothesize that animals that are under nutritional stress are less able to fight off viruses and are therefore more likely to shed viruses,” said Professor Raina Plowright, an infectious disease ecologist at Cornell University whoWireIn order to reduce the ‘risk of spillover’, bats need their own habitat and enough food ‘without overlapping with humans’,” further explained prof. Plowright.

She added that the ecology of the reservoir host, such as bats in this case, is rarely studied. “We rarely work backwards to find out where the virus came from and why it went from a wild species to a human. If they know all the parameters, such as food, they can draw conclusions.”

Hendra virus: the killer virus has already killed four people

The Hendra virus was discovered in 1994. The virus has affected horses in 60 cases so far. Scientists managed to find that the virus infects warm-blooded animals two years before the outbreak of the disease. Horse owners are therefore encouraged to have their horses vaccinated.

However, humans can also become infected with the pathogen. After the first outbreak, a stable worker became infected but survived the infection. A horse trainer died after an infection. A total of seven people contracted the Hendra virus and four died as a result. A runny nose, fever, difficulty breathing, and erratic behavior may occur after infection. In addition to the Hendra virus, other viruses such as Sars-CoV-2, Marburg or Nipah can exist in bats.

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