If theres one question I get over and over and over and over on ERV, its this one:

What kind of viruses are in bat poop??

Until yesterday, I had no idea what to tell the millions of people sending me that Q. Thank GAWD daedalus2u sent me a link to this awesome paper!

Bat Guano Virome: Predominance of Dietary Viruses from Insects and Plants plus Novel Mammalian Viruses

While Im being silly about this, the viruses that infect bats are a really big deal. Im sure youve heard of rabies (if you find a bat in your house and it bites/scratches you, you need to go see a physician ASAP). But bats are also a problem with emerging viruses– SARS, Hendra, Menangle, Nipah, Ebola, all lyssaviruses (not just rabies)… They dont necessarily transmit these viruses directly to humans or our livestock/pets, but they play essential roles in these viruses epidemiology. Combine bats lifestyle (huge colonies, tight quarters, poop all over the place, fliers) with humans lifestyles (encroaching on and/or destroying other organisms habitats), and youve got a ticking viral time-bomb. We stopped SARS from becoming a big deal, but that dosent mean we wont be blindsided by something else.

One way we can give ourselves an advantage is studying the bat virome– what kinds of viruses are in/around/interact with bats? You could net a ton of bats and draw blood… :-/… or, you could scrape the bottom of a cave for some bat poop.

YAY!

What this group found was expected, but amazing. Of course, there were bat/mammalian viruses in the bat poo. There are human/mammalian viruses in human poo. We expect this. But these made up a minority population of the viruses found!

The biggest group of viruses in the bat virome were… insect viruses, because bats eat a ton of insects! HA!

What else? Plant and fungal viruses, because the insects the bats ate ate a ton of plants/fungi! HA!

Oh, and they also found bacterial viruses (phage). Cause bacteria are everywhere, thus so are their viruses. HA!

They also found many, many viral sequences that were not in Genbank. We dont know what they are. That doesnt necessarily mean “OMFG UNAVOIDABLE PLAGUE WE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIIE!!!” It means we havent sequenced a lot of the viruses that are out there. We usually just focus on the ones that cause us problems. Viruses in other organisms that dont cause us problems are going to be low on our ‘biochemical characterization’ to-do list… But they might cause us trouble in the future.

This was a really cool first step that might one day help us stop bat virus armageddon!

Or it might ‘only’ be a really cool first step in understanding this planets virome.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin
    October 4, 2010

    When you’re doing this sort of mass-sequencing of biological samples, how do you know that a novel gene is a virus gene? I remember in that recent nature paper looking at phages in human fecal samples, they sorted out virus-like particles and sequenced that – did they do the same here?

  2. #2 Sili
    October 4, 2010

    So it’s not so much the bat virome as it’s the bat poopome?

  3. #3 TBnSuch
    October 4, 2010

    Who are all these people that are bat-shit crazy?

  4. #4 Brian
    October 4, 2010

    Sili: I guess that would be the “guanome”.

  5. #5 vhutchison
    October 4, 2010

    And then there is the non-viral histoplasmosis from bat guano!

  6. #6 herr doktor bimler
    October 4, 2010

    Combine bats lifestyle (huge colonies, tight quarters, poop all over the place, fliers) with humans lifestyles

    Not much difference, is that what you’re saying?

  7. #7 Radar
    October 5, 2010

    I created a movie about why people shouldn’t eat bats I new of a few like like Nipa and Hinta virus but was surprised at all the others I found. the movie is here please let me know of any errors or additions you can make. Oh I have animated bats that narrate the movie.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/RadarFoxbat?feature=mhum#p/u/3/RsNmplrHw2A

    The only virus I’ve heard that affects humans in guano is Histoplasmosis from what I’ve read has only killed a couple people a scientist years ago before they use full breathing gear in bat caves and was studying some million bats in a cave. also read it’s very common found in playground sandboxes. just need a lot of the fungus to get sick. Usually I tell people worry about the rabies take precautions around bats don’t be the one a year that dies because you didn’t get the shots in time if you get bit.

    this is a flyer I’ve made so people can get an idea where rabies stands versus the diseases mosquitoes carries in the grand scheme of things. unfortunately world numbers are hard to get so I still have some gaps on the flyer.

    http://www.searchcompanies.org/Fewerr_Newsletters/Bat_versus_Mosquito.pdf

    Bruce Taylor wildlife rehabber – bats Director FEWERR
    fewerr@tulsacoxmail.com

  8. #8 386sx
    October 5, 2010

    I created a movie about why people shouldn’t eat bats I new of a few like like Nipa and Hinta virus but was surprised at all the others I found. the movie is here please let me know of any errors or additions you can make. Oh I have animated bats that narrate the movie.

    Formosa looks like Barney Fife!!

  9. #9 vhutchison
    October 6, 2010

    #7: Radar
    If you continue to work with bats, especially in caves, you probably should learn more about histoplasmosis. First, as I mentioned above, histo is NOT a virus, but a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum). Second, it can be a very bad disease. Although many persons infected have no symptoms, others do, and it can be very serious, especially if it becomes systemic. Deaths DO occur and they are not uncommon as you suggest. Just one example: A Louisiana study for 1999-2007 found 62 deaths attributed as the main cuase of mortality, but 86% were in patients co-infected with HIV. HIV patients are particularly sensitive to histo infections.

    I will not bother to list appropriate links. Just Google ‘histoplasmosis’ to find numerous references, including many in medical journals, and mortality reports from various agencies, including WHO.

  10. #10 Mobius
    October 6, 2010

    Well, I know that ever since I was a wee bairn I have wondered what kind of viruses could be found in bat poop.

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