Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, researchers have taken a keen interest in the case of bats. They designate this species as the “reservoir” of Covid-19. Indeed, SARS-CoV-2 would first develop in bats, before transiting to an intermediate host, and then infecting humans.
The discovery of this virus raised many questions. Those that come up most often relate to the resistance of bats to viruses. Researchers are wondering how this animal can carry the Coronavirus without getting sick.
A team of international scientists, led by Emma Teeling of University College Dublin, seems to have found an answer to this question.
The secret of their immunity is hidden in their genetic code
According to Emma Teeling, who is also the co-founder of the Bat1K project, the secret to the “exceptional immunity” of bats lies in their genetic code, which protects them from deadly viruses. To learn more about their immune defense mechanism, Emma Teeling’s team studied the genome sequences of several species of bats.
Analysis of these genomic sequences allowed them to discover that this animal had a “unique immune system.” The study of the genes of bats revealed that they were closely linked to a group made up of carnivores, including dogs, cats and seals. However, the researchers noted particularities in certain regions of their genomes which evolve differently and which would be the cause of their resistance to viruses.
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A discovery that will help fight the pandemic?
In a previous study published in 2017, Emma Teeling spoke about the double defense system that allowed bats not to succumb to these viruses. First, they use an inflammatory defense mechanism that allows them to directly attack the pathogen. Subsequently, they call on interleukins “To moderate this inflammation and avoid deleterious effects. “
The researchers plan to conduct further studies to better understand how the immune system works in bats. They believe that in the long term this could contribute to the discovery of an effective treatment for diseases such as Covid-19.
“If we can mimic the immune response of bats to the virus, then we may be able to find a cure” she explained.