2 thoughts on “Vincent Racaniello interviews Australian bat researcher Linfa Wang”

  1. Bats require a lot of food and their only defense is flight. Like birds, they won’t look sick for very long — if at all. When to any degree they lose their edge, they die or are killed. It seems that there haven’t been any longitudinal studies to find out how long any individual bat has a virus. Could an infected bat be like a person with HIV?

    Once captive colonies provide the opportunity for longitudinal studies, then bat lifespans can be accurately gauged. What’s available now from field observatiom — since bats can’t be banded like birds and so until recently could not be positively IDed — is barely more than anecdotal. Similarly sized bats almost certainly do live longer than mice, but so do birds. Age claims for bats of thirty and forty years really do need further investigation for verification.

    Cancers and tumors are not often observed in any wild animals, most tending to die of other causes well before the onset of any oncological disease.

  2. Email to Linfa Wang

    To: Linfa Wang

    In your recent great TWIV interview, you mentioned how bats are apparently resistant to viruses. Is that from longitudinal studies of tagged bats or long term observations of captive individuals? Or, does that mean that bats infected with (and able to spread) viruses often appear asymptomatic? I’m thinking of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the US in the ’80s. Many seemingly hale and hearty sexually active people infected with HIV also appeared asymptomatic until a very rapid disease onset, followed by death soon after.

    Also, just doing a quick Google search of bats transmitting disease in Australia, what seems to be mostly happening is illness in people and other (domestic) placental mammals. Do marsupials generally not contract rabies? I’m attaching a spreadsheet from the State of NJ (US) for rabies statistics in animals. There are many cases of rabies in raccoons for the year 2013. Even looking at a 10 yr period, there are extremely few in opossums. The “Virginia” opossum is very common in NJ and may be found in the same environment as the raccoon — my street in Jersey City, NJ (not far from NYC), for instance!

    I do have a couple of questions about the stats. One I need to ask the State of NJ: how are the numbers compiled? I doubt that every animal found dead on the side of the road is tested. I also wonder about the behavior of infected animals varying from species to species. Do some become very bold around humans and thus Animal Control is called? Do others retreat into a den and die?

    BTW, a half-century or so ago here in Jersey City, I was bitten by a Little Brown bat subsequently identified as rabid. As I was allergic to the vaccine, my parents were told that I was going to die. Perhaps because nobody told me anything, that clearly did not happen.

    Thank you,

    Anthony Olszewski

    # # #


    The observation that bats carrying viruses seldom show diseases symptoms is derived from both experimental infection and field studies. There were a few longitudinal studies as well, although in science you can never be 100% with negative findings.

    . . .

    There is really no systematic studies on native marsupials in terms of virus infection. During the initial epi study of Hendra virus, limited number of marsupials were surveyed, but they were all -ve for Hendra.

    Prof. Linfa (Lin-Fa) Wang, PhD FTSE

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