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Friday, July 30, 2021

Bat’s next threat: the virus that would cause an even worse pandemic

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

All the experts affirm that there is a virus that, due to its own characteristics, could lead to a pandemic worse than covid-19, due to the high lethality it presents

The year 2020 began with one of the worst news in recent decades: a strange virus born in China was spreading uncontrollably among the world population, without understanding where it was born, how it spread or even how it could be stopped. A year later, with more than 95 million cases and 2 million deaths worldwide, the entire planet is trying to stop one of the most devastating pandemics in history, which remains out of control and struggles with every means possible. However, without the intention of being ominous, the experts warn: it is not the only virus that worries.

Supaporn Wacharapluesadee is one of the most reputable virologists on the planet. This Thai scientist has been discovering, studying and analyzing all types of viruses for several decades. Director of the Center for Health Sciences and Emerging Infectious Diseases of the Thailand Red Cross, she has been part of the Predict project for more than a decade, a global plan in charge of detecting and stopping zoonotic diseases, those are born in animals and they end up infecting human being. For that reason, she was the first to detect a case of covid-19 outside the Chinese borders and, now, she warns of other equally dangerous viruses.

This scientist is an expert in the study and research of animal viruses, with a special focus on bats. Wacharapluesadee knows that this animal is one of the species that has the greatest number of viruses capable of harboring in its interior without making them sick, due to its special endocrine system. In fact, she is aware that diseases such as covid-19, Ebola or SARS were born from the bat and ended up affecting humans, in many cases after passing through another intermediate animal. For that reason, she has spent decades studying these species and the potential viruses that can reach humans, among which one that she considers one of the most dangerous in the world stands out: the Nipah Virus.

Discovered in 1998, experts say that it is a virus that has absolutely all the characteristics to become another global pandemic. In recent years, they have discovered the number of cases directly related to Nipah is increasing and the main problem with this virus has to do with its high mortality rate. Despite the discovery of the first case in humans more than 20 years ago, there is no treatment for this disease, which has characteristics similar to covid, such as its long incubation period and respiratory symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

According to Wacharapluesadee, this virus is found naturally in fruit bats and has a mortality rate among humans between 40% and 75%. In fact, in the annual lists that the World Health Organization (WHO) discloses potentially dangerous pathogens for humans, Nipah always appears among the 10 most dangerous, and it is feared that it could proliferate among humans and increase the number of cases in the coming years. This is because, in recent decades, human beings have been industrializing and taking over rural spaces, where traditionally well these bats and, more commonly, different Asian populations coexist in the natural spaces of fruit bats.

In fact, experts already know that different outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh and India in recent years. According to different researches, scientists are more and more convinced that the infection takes place from the consumption of date palm juice. Street vendors place bowls on the trunks of these trees to collect the juice that spills from these fruits and then sell it at the stalls. It is a very attractive delicacy for the locals, but what they do not know is that the fruit bat that lives in these plantations urinates on the trees themselves, so when they are infected with Nipah, they end up carrying the pathogen to the bowl and causing the infection who consume it.

One of the arguments that have been heard the most in recent months, especially after it became known that covid-19 emerged and developed in bats –as well as many other diseases, advocated the extinction of some of the potentially most dangerous species of this animal, with the aim of avoiding the birth of new mortal diseases for humans. However, the experts are very clear: the remedy would be worse than the disease. Bats are animals that pollinate more than 500 different plant species and ensure that mosquito populations do not increase exponentially, two fundamental elements for crops and for humans.

The big difference that Nipah has with respect to the coronavirus is that its transmission is much lower, although it is true that its mortality is much higher. This has allowed that the outbreaks that have taken place have been specific and that it has not been transmitted by half the planet. However, data on this disease are really scary: between 2001 and 2011, Bangladesh suffered 11 different outbreaks of Nipah, in which a total of 196 people were infected, of which 150 died. It is believed that in the coming years the outbreaks of this disease will increase, as it has been discovered that not only affects humans but also affects a number of animals, as is the case with pigs.

Further research to try to know these pathogens and find a solution is critical to avoiding future pandemics, in this case Nipah, one of the most dangerous viruses on the planet.

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