“By contrast, the economic impact of the SARS pandemic is calculated to be $16 billion,” says Anthony. “We’re not saying that this undertaking would prevent another outbreak like SARS. Nonetheless, what we learn from exploring global viral diversity could mitigate outbreaks by facilitating better surveillance and rapid diagnostic testing.”
The team plans to repeat the process in two follow-up studies—one in a species of primates in Bangladesh in order to see if their viral diversity is comparable to the flying fox’s, and another in Mexico, where analysis of samples from six species of bats that share the same habitat, to determine the extent to which they share viruses. With additional resources, they hope to expand the investigation to other species and viral families.
The paper is published in the journal mBio.
Read more from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.