Bats will be the main animal reservoir for coronaviruses based on a survey of a large number of animals across Africa, Asia and the Americas. The animals had formerly been associated with the coronaviruses that triggered outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle-East respiratory virus (MERS), but so far scientists weren’t certain whether that was a coincidence or a sign of a broader pattern. The findings suggest that scientists who study infectious illnesses can enhance their predictions of where coronaviruses are probably to leap from animals to individuals by looking in the conduct of the viruses as well as the distribution of various bat species they carry.
“It’s time to quit being reactive, ” states Simon Anthony, a virologist at Columbia University in New York City and lead author of the research published today in Virus Evolution1. “The stage would be to have another approach and be more pro-active by knowing the variety of viruses out there before they really emerge.” The the study was funded by the US Agency for International Development by means of a program that aims to pre-empt pandemics of viruses that move from animals to people.