Chinese scientists blame bats for spreading pig virus

Xinhua
Researchers have identified a coronavirus in horseshoe bats and confirmed it is to blame for killing some 25,000 piglets in China.
Xinhua

Researchers have identified a coronavirus in horseshoe bats and confirmed it is to blame for killing some 25,000 piglets in China.

The newborn swine on farms in China's southern Guangdong province mysteriously started having diarrhea, vomiting and dying in 2016 and 2017.

Researchers initially suspected porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), but further tests based on genetic analysis proved it was SADS, or swine acute diarrhea syndrome.

"Once we put this mysterious germ under the microscope, we confirmed it was a new virus from the same family as both PEDV and SARS. Bats are notorious as the reservoir of a large number of pathogens, so we started to track the virus from bat samples,"said Shi Zhengli, a virologist at Wuhan institute of virology with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to Shi, researchers collected 591 bat samples, mostly from horseshoe bats between 2013 and 2016 and ten percent of them tested positive.

The research was a collaboration among scientists from China, Singapore and the US and the findings were published in the journal Nature last week.

"This study highlights the importance of identifying coronavirus diversity and distribution in bats to mitigate future outbreaks that could threaten livestock, public health, and economic growth," said the findings.

Researchers were relieved to discover the virus was not transmissible to humans after they tested workers who were in close contact with the infected pigs in Guangdong.

"Many human infectious diseases like SARS have an animal origin. It is possible that SADS could transmit from bats to domesticated animals and, in turn, to humans in the future," said Ma Jingyun, a researcher from South China Agricultural University, also co-author of the research paper. 

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