11 July 2024

Researchers at the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases of Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University will join officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in conducting a study on the ability of bat species in Thailand to carry novel coronavirus.

Scientists theorize that the coronavirus is possibly spread from bats to snakes and, eventually, to humans. SARS and MERS were also said to have been spread by bats in 2004.

The Journal of Medical Virology said that the 2019-nCoV in snakes is likely to have allowed cross-species transmission from snakes to humans.

According to Dr. Supaporn Watcharaprueksadee, deputy director of the centre, there are about 23 species of horseshoe bats in Thailand and researchers have decoded their genetic makeup, finding 300-400 coronavirus types, but they do not transmit to humans.

Scientists have identified seven coronavirus species, however, which can be transmitted to humans, with four species causing flu-like symptoms, two causing SARS and MERS and another, known as the novel coronavirus 2019, which causes pneumonia.

According to Dr. Supaporn, the illness caused by novel coronavirus is less serious than the coronavirus which causes MERS and SARS.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has warned people to refrain from eating bats or visiting caves in which millions of bats make their home.

Mr. Chongklai Worapongsathorn, the department’s deputy chief, said he didn’t want people to panic because of reports that bats carry coronavirus, adding that people rarely visit caves containing bats because of the overpowering and foul stench produced by bat excrement.