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Bat cave solves mystery of SARS virus (nature.com)
96 points by nature24 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments



"...the researchers spent five years monitoring the bats that lived there, collecting fresh guano and taking anal swabs."

That my friends is dedication. Would make a great dirty jobs episode. Best wishes for their work to save some lives and prevent a future wider outbreak from occurring.


The very first episode had similar charm http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1272617/


"""Although many markets selling animals in China have already been closed or restricted following outbreaks of SARS and other infectious diseases, Yuen agrees that the latest results suggest the risk is still present. “It reinforces the notion that we should not disturb wildlife habitats and never put wild animals into markets,” says Yuen. Respecting nature, he argues, “is the way to stay away from the harm of emerging infections”."""

This is a totally foreign notion to me, wild animals into the food market, what sort of examples can be found in such markets? Interesting thought to consider wild vs domestic food sources and the tradeoffs between the two. Domestic could have negative consequences too though like farmed fish with bad farming practices vs wild fish.


> wild animals into the food market, what sort of examples can be found in such markets?

Typically in Africa this is called 'bush meat' and it can be just about anything that lives and breathes short of hominids.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushmeat

Asia has similar customs, as do plenty of parts of the rest of the world but not in similar quantities.

It's super risky because some of the species can be reservoirs of pathogens and consuming them allows the pathogen to jump across species boundaries.

There is strong evidence that's how HIV got started in humans, for one.


General point is right, but Hominidae includes chimpanzees/bonobos and gorillas. So if what I've heard about bushmeat is true, it most certainly includes hominids.


I once saw a rather disturbing photo in a National Geographic magazine, of a small monkey being cooked. I believe it was in Indonesia. Really can't remember the specifics, though, it could have been anywhere.


China has similar custom as well.


Ah yes, you are totally correct. Apologies.


They say people in the Pearl river delta have the very varied and peculiar delicacies due to periodic famines driving people to eat all sorts of things people didn't regularly eat and still don't eat in more northern latitudes, like Beijing.


I wonder if this might be a lot more recent than we think. The biggest famines probably were created by failed Maoist experiments.


When I was a grad student I worked deep in the Amazon of eastern Ecuador. The following wild foods could be found at the market: white-lipped peccary, spider monkeys[1], woolly monkeys, paca, parrot, macaw, iguana (I think, might have actually been in Panama), and fish.

[1] this was utterly heartbreaking, spider monkeys are rare, even in intact tropical forest, and have a very low reproductive rate. I remember visiting a local village where a female adult with a juvenile had been killed. The juvenile was being raised as a pet until it was large enough for the pot.


I had Iguana in Ecuador. Tasted like chicken. No really it did.


It's kind of a foreign notion in the USA, but south of the border there are still a lot of subsistence farmers, who are basically just people who live off the land and they eat everything they can catch. See something moving? Catch it and bring it home for Mom to cook.

I assume the same is true in Asia.


It's not totally unknown in the U.S., though not very common. In some areas you can find shops specializing in "wild game meat". Deer hunted in the wild are probably the most common, but you can also find wild boar and a few other things. The commonly hunted wild animals are admittedly perhaps a bit less wild than in other places, since the Fish and Wildlife Service does quite a bit of monitoring for diseases, herd management, etc.


Squirrel, snake, various bird species (duck, turkey, goose, quail, and lesser known species), crocodile, armadillo, various wild pig species, elk, all the deer, and of course the huge variety of wild-caught ocean and fresh-water species...


Armadillo road kill for dinner is at least a meme in the Deep South (USA), not sure if anyone still does that.


The bumper on a 90s pickup is about the perfect height for a clean neck break on a turkey. Wild turkey is a great meal regardless of how you kill it (within reason, turning it inside out with a 12ga slug is not going to improve anything)

If I hit a Moose you can bet your ass I'm taking it home. If you're gonna need to go car shopping you might as well get a free moose out of it. I actually passed up a (likely once in a lifetime) chance to get one someone in front of me hit because I was in a SUV that wasn't mine and didn't want to explain why the carpet was covered in blood.

I'd steer clear of eating anything that has tire marks on it though. From what I hear (2nd hand) beating it up like that ruins the meat.


In Anchorage, Alaska there is a moose roadkill call list you can get on. The authorities will call you (day or night) when a moose is struck. If you're willing to come out and harvest it, it's yours. If not, they move down the list to the next person. My brother has gotten a moose or two that way.

Usually the impact point(s) is/are pretty wrecked, but the majority of the meat is good. And, of course, Anchorage is a natural refrigerator (or freezer) most times of the year.


You couldn't give 25% of the meat to the sub owner or use the roof (yeah I know it might have been crushed. Moose r big)


All sort of curious connections can appear in this cases. Armadillo re-connect humans with leprosy for example. Is the unique known vector apart of other humans and the only inmune vector. This is really strange if we take in mind that Leprosy started probably in Asia as an indian organism living on some unknown animal.


They do this in the western world too. It's just called venison.


See also boar, rabbit, and bird hunting.

A lot of old viruses that still affect us came out of animal husbandry and/or hunting in Europe and the near east.

It’s easy to tut tut because we don’t trade in wild caught meat today (except fish) but we did, and those viruses are everywhere now.


There are deer farms in Australia.

Another good example, from Australia, of wild-harvest meat is Kangaroo and Wallaby.


And bush pigs, I believe, although I'm not sure if they're for human consumption or just used in pet meat.


One of my siblings live in Norther Queensland, they hunt pig for pest control and dog food.


You can't sell venison.


Hmm not sure where you live, but here in the UK it's on sale in many farm shops. There are also 'game dealers' that sells it back to shops, restaurants etc.


「四腳爬爬,背朝天,人皆可食之。」

Four legs and back to the sky, ok to eat.


I lived in Zhejiang, China for a while and on a woodland walk with a friend he was telling me about the local flora and fauna. "There used to be dangerous animals like tigers all around here, but don't worry, we ate them all."


So sloths are a no go?


Sloths go, just not very fast.


Sloths are super gross.


Have they ever discovered how the SARS virus was transmitted, despite the best efforts of Toronto hospital staff to take the highest precautions? That was the scariest part to me, that in continued to infect hospital staff in Toronto, Canada, a modern 1st world city, despite all the precautions they took.


To be clear after reading the article[0] this means "probably came from horseshoe bats" not "probably came from this particular cave which happens to be in Yunnan" or even "probably came from Yunnan". You can see from the phylogenetic tree (figure 6) that they have heavily sampled Yunnan and Hong Kong but there is only one sample from Guizhou and there are none from other nearby locations. There are thousands of caves over this entire region, owing to the dominant limestone and karst topography on this edge of the Himalayas.

Less scientifically, Yunnan is a long way from Guangdong and has zero popular history of eating or handling bats. People from remote parts of Yunnan where bats live do not often travel to Guangdong. While bats are known to harbour different viruses, I am calling bullshit on Yunnan as the source of SARS. There are many populations of bats in caves far closer to Guangdong such as far northeast Vietnam, Guangxi, Guizhou and probably Hunan and Fujian provinces which would be preferable choices for source populations of trapped wild bats.

[0] http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/jo...


Are bats responsible for any deadly diseases other than Ebola, Marburg, MERS (camels?) and SARS?


In Australia, lyssaviruses, which are deadly. Also Hendra virus, also deadly.


They are really just odd versions of rabies though



True, I was just highlighting that they aren't really separate diseases to add to the count.


come to think of it, bats are closely related to mice right? Both seem to have a knack for spreading disease it would seem, I wonder what the deal is there.




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