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How bats coexist with viruses

How bats coexist with viruses

How can bats coexist with viruses, including various types of coronavirus, without suffering from the diseases? Researchers at the Center for Complexity & Biosystems of the University of Milan investigated this interesting issue and found that the success in keeping viruses at bay stem from the variations of body temperature characteristic of bats.

Bats are represented by more than 1400 species, about one fourth of all existing mammal species, populating every kind of habitat and being the only mammals capable

of sustained fight. Some species of bats are capable of hibernating during the winter season when the temperature decreases, prey are scarce and food requirements can easily exceed available resources. During the day, most bats decrease their activity and enter in torpor in order to hunt at dawn when the external temperature is lower and food is more abundant.

In a paper just published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface , CC&B researchers lead by Caterina La Porta, professor of general patology at the Department of Environemntal Science and Policy and Stefano Zapperi, professor at the department of physics, show that the peculiar variations in the bats body temperature are at the core of their unconventional coexistence with viruses. Using a minimal model of virus-host interaction and analysing experimental data from the literature, the researchers were able to evaluate the contribution of daily torpor in the maintenance of chronic viral infections in bats.

“We showed that daily torpor also contributes to a reduction of the immune response, preventing the risks correlated to a sustained chronic in inflammation” explains Caterina La Porta. “Our model for the interaction between virus and immune response displays interesting mathematical features showing a non-chaotic quasiperiodic attractor which makes the system more robust against perturbations in the sleep/wake cycle,” concludes Stefano Zapperi.

Read the paper:
Fumagalli Maria Rita, Zapperi Stefano and La Porta Caterina A. M.
2021 Role of body temperature variations in bat immune response to viral infectionsJ. R. Soc. Interface.182021021120210211