Scientists, collecting yellow-shouldered bats from Guatemala for rabies research; discovered something completely unexpected: genetic traces of influenza A in the bats’ intestines.
While the influenza virus has been found in several other animal species (humans, birds, dogs, horses, seals and whales, for example), it has never before been found in bats.
Rubin A. Donis led the team of scientists who made this discovery. According to their study released online yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the bat flu virus is highly divergent from known influenza A viruses. Scientists have not been able to grow the virus in chicken embryos, again, suggesting its difference from known influenza A viruses. However, Donis cautions that this particular virus is capable of exchanging genetic material with human influenza viruses, and this genetic reassortment has the potential to create a new influenza pandemic.