Identifying Research Emphasis in Bat Disease Dynamics

Bats are incredibly diverse organisms with over 1400 species documented worldwide, occupying a variety of ecological niches. This diversity extends to their status as pathogen reservoirs. Bats are host to a wide range of pathogens that includes Ebola virus, Marburg virus, Nipah virus, Hendra virus, Rabies, and coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2. Many bat species have relatively long lives and possess complex social structures, facilitating long-term maintenance and transmission of pathogens. As such, a great deal of research has been undertaken on disease dynamics among bat communities over the years.

CEID members Cecilia A. Sánchez and Tamika J. Lunn were recently authors on a review paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, synthesizing the latest research on bat infection dynamics and identifying critical gaps in present research and methodologies at the individual, population, and community scales. Among the gaps highlighted was the need for more research on the impact of anthropogenic changes to habitat, greater understanding of how genomic and microbiome factors contribute to disease resilience, cross-species transmission dynamics, and a greater emphasis on interdisciplinary research.

Many bat species are considered indicator species. Understanding them is key to a greater understanding of the ecosystems in which they reside. Filling in these gaps in our understanding is significant beyond academic interests. It aids in our ability to develop conservation strategies, public health strategies, and in making necessary changes to public policy.

To read more, find the paper here.