As humans are falling prey to some of the deadly viral outbreaks like Ebola, Hendra Virus, MERS, bats remain immune to these diseases even though they carry hundreds of viruses. This unique behavior has raised curiosity among a team of researchers who examined the reason for this species immunity.
A team of CSIRO researchers has analyzed the genome of bats to know how these species remain immune to some deadly virus in the world. Their findings were published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
‘Bats keep their immune system turned on all the time, unlike humans who only activate it when infected. This unique behavior of bats may hold the key to protecting people from deadly diseases.’
The human immune system comprises of 12 types of interferon, of which the Type I interferon is widely explored because of its role in fighting foreign agents invading the body. These signaling proteins are only activated when the human body is infected.
But the first bat genome sequencing by the team revealed that bats have only three types of interferon and the Type I interferon remains active all the time, no matter if the host is infected or not. This unique mechanism wards off deadly viruses in bats and makes it remain immune to several conditions.
The authors are still studying whether this mechanism can be triggered in humans and are hopeful that this could help in preventing deadly viral infections in humans.
"If we can redirect other species' immune responses to behave in a similar manner to that of bats, then the high death rate associated with diseases, such as Ebola, could be a thing of the past," Dr. Baker said.
Reference: Michelle L. Baker, Peng Zhou et al. Contraction of the type I IFN locus and unusual constitutive expression of IFN-α in bats, PNAS
, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1518240113