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THURSDAY, Jan. 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Bats’ immune systems may protect them from viruses that cause diseases in people, new research suggests.

If suspicions that bats are the source of the coronavirus outbreak in China are true, it would be the latest disease-causing virus to make its way from bats to people.

“We don’t know the source yet, but there’s pretty strong evidence that this is a bat origin coronavirus,” Dr. Peter Daszak told The New York Times.

The president of EcoHealth Alliance has spent 15 years in China studying diseases that jump from animals to people.

The SARS and MERS epidemics were caused by bat coronaviruses, as was a devastating viral epidemic in pigs, according to The Times.

Bats are a natural reservoir for the Marburg, Nipah and Hendra viruses, which have caused human disease and outbreaks, and are believed to be the natural reservoir for the Ebola virus.

Scientists are striving to understand how bats can carry so many viruses and still survive, and evidence suggests that this is possible due to immune system changes triggered by bats’ evolutionary adaptations to flight, The Times reported.

Bats can carry many viruses and still ward off illness, perhaps because over time they lost genes responsible for the immune-system response that is a root cause of illness in so many other animals, researchers say.

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