CSU Testing Ugandan Bats to Study COVID-19 Transmission
You're aware of the rumors surrounding COVID-19 and bats — especially if you've seen South Park. Now, Colorado State University is looking into the correlation between the animals and the virus.
According to a press release from CSU, Rebekah Kading, a virologist at the university, and her team are studying bats in eastern Uganda to determine how diseases spread between the animals and humans.
"With SARS-COV-2 [COVID-19], it's arguably more important now than ever before to understand these interactions and how to mitigate risk of disease transmission while ultimately protecting the conservation of the bats and maintaining the integrity of their habitat as much as possible," said Dr. Anna Fagre, team member and veterinary postdoctoral fellow, in the release.
This understanding is particularly important in Uganda, where people often enter caves to collect bat guano, salt, and crystals.
Researchers are tagging the bats with microchips, which they will use to see how diseases spread among the animals. The team has sampled six bats and plans to study their regional migrations during Uganda's dry season — a move that could help predict outbreaks.
On top of understanding disease transmission, the team is also taking precautions to protect the bat population.
"People observe us going into the caves with Tyvek suits and respirators to protect ourselves from infectious agents, but we don't want to instill fear in them," said Kading. "That might have negative consequences on the conservation of bats, and so engagement is critical. We have lots of conversations about how to live safely with bats."
The study will continue for the next five years. In 2022, the team will begin surveying locals to gauge their knowledge of human-bat interactions.