Research Uncovers Huge Diversity of Coronaviruses Worldwide

NEW YORK – June 12, 2017 – EcoHealth Alliance, a global nonprofit organization working at the intersection of environmental, animal and public health, announced the publication of new research featured in the journal, Virus Evolution, highlighting the results of a five-year study of coronaviruses in mammals across 20 countries. Findings suggest that bat species harbor a large proportion of the global diversity of Coronaviruses. This group includes viruses that caused two largescale outbreaks: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that originated in China in 2003, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The study was funded by the USAID PREDICT program, a large-scale project to discover new viruses, and to predict and prevent their emergence in people. “This study fills a huge gap in what we know about the diversity of coronaviruses in animal hosts by charting the geographic and genetic diversity of coronaviruses in animals, which is a critical first step to understanding the possible threats of specific viruses,” says first author Simon Anthony, assistant professor of Epidemiology in CII. “Studies like this allow us to get ready for, and prevent the next emerging pandemic,” said co-author Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance.

 

Bats and other wildlife species carry viruses that can cause illness in people.  However, the factors that drive these pathogens to ‘spillover’ have much to do with human populations encroaching on wildlife territory. The hunting of bats for bushmeat and the destruction of their natural habitat through deforestation and urbanization increase the risk of these viruses causing outbreaks, as well as threaten bat populations. It is vital to remember that bats serve an essential role in ecosystem services providing seed dispersal, pollination and insect control. “We recognize that human health, animal health, and the health of ecosystems are inextricably linked. The truth is that bat conservation reduces the risk of disease,” says Mike Daulton, Executive Director of Bat Conservation International.

 

About EcoHealth Alliance

Building on over 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife, environmental and public health from the emergence of disease. Approximately 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases like Ebola, HIV, Zika, SARS, MERS, and West Nile virus have all originated in animals before spilling over to human populations. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions to determine where research and field work are needed to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance’s rigorous, science-based approach working in more than 30 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance’s strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, capacity building and policy initiatives. EcoHealth Alliance has a strong working relationship with Bat Conservation International to promote the conservation of bats and recognition of their critical role on our planet.

 

For more information, please visit www.ecohealthalliance.org.

 

 

Bat Conservation International

Bat Conservation International is a nonprofit organization with members in 60 countries and a growing range of international partners. Founded in 1982, BCI uses science, education and conservation action to protect bats and their habitats around the world. Learn more about bats and their critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and human economies at BCI’s website: www.batcon.org.

 

For more information on BCI, please contact Micaela Jemison – mjemison@batcon.org

 

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