Bats Might Be Origin of SARS

Findings suggest winged mammals could spread SARS-like viruses across Asia, Australia and Europe

Charles Choi(cqchoi@nasw.org)
Sep 29, 2005

SARS may have originated in wild bats in China, an international team of scientists report this week in Science. The family of bats carrying the virus is widespread in Asia and is distributed across Europe and Australia, "and we just don't yet know if the viruses are as well," co-author Peter Daszak, executive director of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine based at the Wildlife Trust in New York, told The Scientist.

These findings spotlight how future research into emerging diseases needs multidisciplinary studies across "virologists, ecologists, wildlife biologists and veterinarians" to understand what specific factors make pathogens more likely to jump across species when humans encroach upon wild habitats, Daszak added.

In 2003, investigators found that masked palm civets and two other species harbored the SARS coronavirus. However, subsequent research showed there was no widespread infection in wild or farmed masked palm civets, suggesting the...