Influenza… SARS… Ebola… All viruses that can have debilitating (and fatal) effects on humans.
One mammal, however, can survive – even thrive – while carrying all of these viruses: bats. And scientists at Duke-National University of Singapore are trying to pinpoint what makes bats so resilient to infectious diseases.
They believe that the key is the bat’s ability to fly.
You see, as bats generate the energy to fly, their bodies produce DNA-damaging free radicals. But their bodies also contain a natural defense mechanism that repairs the damage.
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As the university’s Program Director of Emerging Infectious Diseases says, “Some genes involved in DNA damage repair also play a role in the immunity. So immunity is very important for our body to fight infection. So what we think is that explains why bats carry a lot of deadly viruses, but they don’t develop the disease when humans or animals do.”
Once they nail down how this defense mechanism works, their hope is that it could one day keep humans healthy, as well.