Scientists from the University of Liverpool have shed new light on how bats effectively fight off deadly viruses, by studying their immune response to live infection.
Bats are known to harbour a wide variety of viruses, including those that cause potentially fatal diseases in humans, such as Ebola and SARS. However, they are the only mammal group that routinely tolerates these infections without showing any clinical symptoms.
To better understand how bats manage to do this, the team inoculated healthy Egyptian fruit bats with a live virus and monitored their immune response over a period of 21 days.
Their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, showed that the bats mounted a powerful and coordinated immune response within hours of infection, involving both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
In particular, the team found that the bats produced large quantities of a specialised type of antibody, known as neutralising antibodies. These are key to protecting the body against viral infection, as they bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting cells.
This is the first study to provide a close-up look at how bats’ immune system responds to live infection, and the findings could help to improve our understanding of how these animals are able to co-exist with such deadly viruses.
The findings could also have implications for the development of new treatments and vaccines for human diseases, as they suggest that it may be possible to harness the power of the immune system to fight off infection.
Scientists have for the first time captured close-up images of how bats’ bodies fight a live infection. The findings, published in the journal Science, could help researchers develop new ways to prevent and treat disease in people and other animals.
Bats are known to carry a variety of viruses, including some that can cause severe disease in people, such as Ebola and SARS. But they don’t seem to get sick from these infections. Scientists think this might be because of their unique immune systems.
To get a closer look at how bats fight disease, the researchers infected live bats with a virus that causes a common cold-like illness in people. They then used a special microscope to watch the bats’ immune cells as they responded to the infection.
The researchers found that bats’ immune systems are very efficient at fighting off viral infections. Their bodies produce large amounts of antibodies, which can neutralize the virus and prevent it from infecting cells. The bats also had a type of white blood cell that gobbled up the virus particles.
The findings could help researchers develop new ways to prevent and treat viral infections in people and other animals.