“In human history, we have been chasing infectious diseases one after another,” says Zhou, “but bats appear to be a ‘super-mammal’ to these deadly viruses.”
Which brings us to the punchline: courtesy of the Wuhan institute of virology, here is a press release from Dr. Zhou’s lab titled “How bats carry viruses without getting sick”:
Bats are known to harbor highly pathogenic viruses like Ebola, Marburg, Hendra, Nipah, and SARS-CoV, and yet they do not show clinical signs of disease. In a paper published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe on February 22, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China find that in bats, an antiviral immune pathway called the STING-interferon pathway is dampened, and bats can maintain just enough defense against illness without triggering a heightened immune reaction.
“We believe there is a balance between bats and the pathogens they carry,” says senior author Peng Zhou. “This work demonstrated that in order to maintain a balance with viruses, bats may have evolved to dampen certain pathways.”
In humans and other mammals, an immune-based over-response to one of these and other pathogenic viruses can trigger severe illness. For example, in humans, an activated STING pathway is linked with severe autoimmune diseases.
“In human history, we have been chasing infectious diseases one after another,” says Zhou, “but bats appear to be a ‘super-mammal’ to these deadly viruses.” By identifying a weakened but not defunct STING pathway, researchers have some new insight into how bats fine-tune antiviral defenses to balance an effective, but not an overt, response against viruses.
The authors hypothesize that this defense strategy evolved as part of three interconnected features of bat biology: they are flying mammals, have a long lifespan, and host a large viral reservoir.
“Adaptation to flight likely caused positive selection of multiple bat innate immune and DNA damage repair genes,” Zhou says. These adaptations may have shaped certain antiviral pathways (STING, interferon, and others) to make them good viral reservoir hosts and achieve a tolerable balance.”
His bio (source):
Peng Zhou, Ph.D., researcher, team leader of bat virus infection and immunity. He successively obtained bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Henan University (2004) and Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2010). During his doctorate, he was sent to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory for study. He then carried out research work at Duke-Nus Medical College in Australia and Singapore. He has long been engaged in the research of new virus epidemiology and bat antiviral immunity, revealing that bats carry SARS, MERS, and Ebola for a long time but do not have their own immune mechanisms.
Currently he is hosting and undertaking 3 projects of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Special project and a major national science and technology project – a major project for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. Currently published 28 SCI papers, including Nature, Cell Host Microbe, PNAS and other articles SCI papers, including Nature, Cell Host Microbe, PNAS and other articles published by the first or corresponding author. It is at the forefront of the world in the field of bat and virus research.
So to summarize:
- One of China’s top virology and immunology experts was and still works at China’s top-rated biohazard lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which some have affectionately called the real Umbrella Corp.
- Since 2009, Peng has been the leading Chinese scientist researching the immune mechanism of bats carrying and transmitting lethal viruses in the world.
- His primary field of study is researching how and why bats can be infected with some of the most nightmarish viruses in the world including Ebola, SARS and Coronavirus, and not get sick.
- He was genetically engineering various immune pathways (such as the STING pathway in bats) to make the bats more or less susceptible to infection, in the process potentially creating a super-resistant bug.
- As part of his studies, Peng also researched mutant Coronavirus strains that overcame the natural immunity of some bats; these are “superbug” Coronavirus strains, which are not resistant to any natural immune pathway, and now appear to be out in the world.
- As of mid-November, his lab was actively hiring inexperienced post-docs to help conduct his research into super-Coronaviruses and bat infections.
Peng’s work on virology and bat immunology has received support from the National “You Qing” Fund, the pilot project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the major project of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
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Something tells us, if anyone wants to find out what really caused the coronavirus pandemic that has infected thousands of people in China and around the globe, they should probably pay Dr. Peng a visit.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.