[Photo courtesy of Brian Giesen via Creative Commons & Flickr]
“Pitch Imperfect” is a series of blog posts where I highlight stories that I pitched but didn’t quite sell and discuss why it was tough to sell them. The goal is to share both interesting research stories and some of the obstacles in getting them into the news cycle.
How Fruit Bats Spread Ebola and Hendra Viruses Without Getting Sick
Proposed Dek (aka “the sub-headline” or “social media blurb”)
Unlike most mammalian immune systems which leap into action in response to threats, fruit bats’ immune systems are “on” all the time.
The Pitch (as sent on February 23rd 2016)
Flying foxes– aka fruit bats or megabats— can harbor viruses that are strong enough to tear a human body apart without exhibiting a single symptom.
Or more precisely, while viruses like Ebola and Hendra virus set off violent (and often deadly) immune system chain reactions in humans, fruit bats’ immune systems are able to nip viral infections in the bud right away.
Unfortunately, that means that healthy and highly mobile bats can inadvertently end up transporting viruses like SARS, MERS, Ebola, and Hendra to new locations. However, studying fruit bats’ ability to control viral populations without collateral damage may eventually help humans learn how to coexist with our own volatile immune systems.