Study: Bat SAR-CoV spillovers infect about 66,000 each year in virus hot spots
In the first known estimate of the SARS-CoV spillover risk from bats to people, researchers who studied bat populations in South East Asia and interactions with humans estimate that about 66,280 people a year are infected each year. The team, based at EcoHealth Alliance, published their findings today in Nature Communications. The group also included two scientists from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology.
To make their prediction model, they examined data on 26 bat species with known SARS-CoV sequences and mapped out their habitats, which cover most of Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, peninsular Malaysia, southeast China, and western Indonesia.
The team focused on regions with high bat SARS-CoV host richness and human population overlap. South China is still a hot spot, but other regions stood out due to large human populations, including Java island in Indonesia, northern India, and some parts of Myanmar. Then they based their human infection estimate on serologic evidence of prior exposure, behavioral risk, and antibody duration.
Though the spillovers appear to be common, most cases aren't identified clinically or through surveillance, the team wrote, adding that many diverse viral strains may not be able to replicate well in people, cause illness, or transmit well enough to trigger an outbreak.
The maps and estimates can be used to target field studies and look for clusters of cases involving new coronaviruses, they wrote.
In a press release from EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, PhD, its president and study team lead, said the report identified where the next SARS-like virus could originate, and the EcoHealth's teams
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