For the first time researchers have uncovered a unique ability in bats which allows them to carry but remain unaffected by lethal diseases.
Unlike humans, bats keep their immune systems switched on 24/7 and scientists believe this could hold the key to protecting people from deadly diseases like Ebola.
Bats are a natural host for more than 100 viruses, some of which are lethal to people, including Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola and Hendra virus, however, interestingly bats do not get sick or show signs of disease from these viruses.
Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), this new research examines the genes and immune system of the Australian black flying fox, with surprising results.
“Whenever our body encounters a foreign organism, like bacteria or a virus, a complicated set of immune responses are set in motion, one of which is the defense mechanism known as innate immunity,” leading bat immunologist at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory Dr Michelle Baker said.
“We focused on the innate immunity of bats, in particular the role of interferons — which are integral for innate immune responses in mammals — to understand what’s special about how bats respond…