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Bats and human emerging diseases

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2006

National Centre for Zoonosis Research, University of Liverpool
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Recently, two independent research teams reported evidence of infection with SARS-like coronaviruses in insectivorous horseshoe bats (genus Rhinolophus) in China [1, 2]. SARS emerged in China in 2002, and eventually infected over 8000 people around the world, killing about 10% of them. Early epidemiological studies suggested that the human disease may have originated in Chinese live-animal food markets, and the hunt for a source of the virus quickly identified apparently healthy Himalayan palm civets (Paguma larvata) as prime suspects [3]. Other studies, however, failed to find any evidence of widespread infection in civets [4] or a variety of other animals traditionally used as food in China. Rather, palm civets, like human beings, seem to be only accidental hosts of the virus, becoming infected, again like people, when mixed with other species in markets. More structured hunts for the reservoir continued, although not before thousands of palm civets had been slaughtered.

Editorial Review
2006 Cambridge University Press