A number of deadly viruses are believed to have originated in bats, including Ebola and the original SARS. The indications are that the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 also made the jump from bats, most likely through an intermediary species.
Radek Lučan of Department of Zoology (Charles University, Faculty of Science) says the answer lies in the animal’s robust immune system. In short, bats can weather viruses that in “a perfect world” would never spill over to humans.
Bats are ancient: there are fossils showing they were around more than 50 million years ago. Many species of bats have simply been around for a very long time and encountered viruses of all kinds throughout their evolution. Bats do not only have the capability of powered flight. They have remarkable social organisation, longevity and thermoregulation, they also developed very strong immune systems over time.
While they may be hosts for a number of deadly diseases, we lack evidence of any direct transmission to humans. Historically most zoonotic viruses have come from domesticated animals and not wild animals at all. Also, the number of zoonotic diseases that are transmissible from human to human are minimal to the number of viruses out there, but there are of course exceptions.
Deadly viruses from Ebola to Marburg or the first SARS were found in bats; but in order to know for sure how pathogens jumped to humans (whether it was directly or through an intermediary animal) we would have to be able to locate Patient 0. That is practically impossible. For example, we have no idea who patient 0 was in the transmission of the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 that causes Covid-19.
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