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Bat Flu: Flu Discovery

February 28, 2012 by staff 

Bat Flu: Flu Discovery, Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have discovered evidence of a new influenza type A virus in Guatemalan fruit bats. While they don’t believe the virus poses a threat to humans in its current form, they say more research should be done, because bats could act as a gene-swapping reservoir where the virus acquires genetic material that could make it a threat to human health in the future.

They write about their findings in the 27 February online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Suxiang Tong, who leads the team running the Pathogen Discovery Program in the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tong told the press this is the first time that a flu virus has been identified in bats, but “in its current form the virus is not a human health issue”.

He and his colleagues did not find any evidence of human flu virus genetic material in the bat flu virus, and attempts to propagate it in cell cultures and chicken embryos were unsuccessful, “suggesting distinct requirements compared with known influenza viruses”.

For the bat flu virus to become a threat to human health it would have to acquire some genes from human flu viruses. There is a process that occurs naturally, called genetic reassortment, where this can happen. For example, when two or more viruses infect a host cell at the same time, they can swap genetic material.

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