The University of the Philippines Los Banos is going to develop a model over the next three years that will help predict any pandemic in the future, which has similar dynamics of a coronavirus. The model will be funded by the Japanese government. Scientists will be wearing headlamps and protective suits to untangle the claws and wings of bats that will be caught up in a big net after dark across the Philippine province of Laguna. Bats will be kept in cloth bags for further investigation. Scientists will log the details of saliva and fecal matter that are collected for the analysis before they are left in the wild again. Scientists will be called virus hunters in the model. They will be tasked to catch thousands of bats to develop a simulation model. This model will help predict a pandemic like COVID19 that has claimed millions of lives across the world. Experts will analyze factors such as climate, temperature, and ease of transmission to predict the dynamics of a future pandemic.
The lead ecologist of the team, Dr. Phillip Alvoila, who has been researching bat viruses for more than ten years, has said that experts will look into other variants of coronavirus that might have the capability to infect humans. He has said that if the origin and potential of such viruses are known, they can be isolated geographically. As per the latest report, this study will need lengthy fieldwork, which will involve trekking for long hours through dense rainforests and wobbly night hikes on mountains that are covered in rocks, tree roots, mud, and moss. The team of experts will focus on bat roosts in buildings as well. They will set up mist nets before dusk to trap bats and will take out samples by the light of torches. Experts are supposed to hold the bats by the head and pop in tiny swabs into their mouths. They will record wingspans with plastic rulers to identify which of more than 1300 species, 20 families of bats are more vulnerable to infections, and what is the reason behind it. Scientists will be wearing protective suits, gloves, and masks while being in close proximity with the bats to protect themselves from contracting viruses. Dr. Edison Cosico, who will be assisting Dr. Alvoila in the study, has said that it is terrifying these days as no one knows which bat might be a carrier. He has said that it is crucial to know if there is a virus originating from the bats that can infect humans and cause another pandemic like COVID19.
Experts have been able to catch horseshoe bats so far that are known to harbor coronaviruses along with the closest family member of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Horseshoe bats have been featured in two of the studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) scientists, who have been studying the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID19. Experts have said that host species such as bats show no symptoms of the viruses, though they can be life-threatening if they are transmitted to humans or other animals. As per the report, most deadly viruses such as Ebola, other coronaviruses, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have originated from bats. An ecologist, Kirk Taray has said that human exposure and interaction with wildlife leads to a higher risk of disease transmission now than ever. He has said that identifying potentially zoonotic viruses will help scientists predict a possible outbreak much early.