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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 61(1)

Bats and bat-borne diseases: a perspective on Australian megabats

Justin H. J. Ng A B and Michelle L. Baker A C

A CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia.
B Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: michelle.baker@csiro.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 61(1) 48-57 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO12126
Submitted: 6 December 2012  Accepted: 7 April 2013   Published: 3 May 2013


 
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Abstract

Bats are the second most species rich and abundant group of mammals and display an array of unique characteristics but are also among the most poorly studied mammals. They fill an important ecological niche and have diversified into a wide range of habitats. In recent years, bats have been implicated as reservoirs for some of the most highly pathogenic emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases reported to date, including SARS-like coronavirus, Ebola, Hendra and Nipah viruses. The ability of bats to harbour these viruses in the absence of clinical signs of disease has resulted in a resurgence of interest in bat biology and virus–host interactions. Interest in bats, in Australia in particular, has intensified following the identification of several novel bat-borne viruses from flying-foxes, including Hendra virus, which is capable of spillover from bats to horses and subsequently to humans with potentially fatal consequences. As we continue to encroach on the natural habitats of bats, a better understanding of bat biology, ecology and virus–host interactions has never before been so critical. In this review, we focus on the biology of Australian pteropid bats and the pathogens they harbour, summarising current knowledge of bat-borne diseases, bat ecology, ethology and immunology.



Additional keywords: pteropid bats, emerging infectious disease, viruses, antiviral immunity.


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