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IUCN SSC Bat Specialist Group (BSG) Recommended Strategy for Researchers to Reduce the Risk of Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Humans to Bats MAP: Minimize, Assess, Protect

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Bat Specialist Group - MAP to prevent human-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Researchers v 1.0
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IUCN SSC Bat Specialist Group (BSG) Recommended Strategy for Researchers to
Reduce the Risk of Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Humans to Bats
MAP: Minimize, Assess, Protect
Living Document Version 1.0 Released 19th June 2020
Authors: Germán Botto Nuñez, Andrew Cunningham, Eric Moise Bakwo Fils, Winfred Frick, Md
Nurul Islam, Tracey Jolliffe, Rebekah Kading, Andrzej Kepel, Tigga Kingston, Stefania Leopardi,
Rodrigo Medellín, Ian Mendenhall, Stuart Parsons, Paul Racey, Danilo Russo, Julie Teresa Shapiro,
Amanda Vicente-Santos, Luis Víquez-R, Thong Vu Dinh
Overview
On 13 April 2020 the IUCN Species Survival Commission Bat Specialist Group recommended the
suspension of all field work that involves interactions with bats while it considered the risk of
human-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Subsequently, the Bat Specialist Group convened a global
panel of experts with expertise ranging from bat ecologists to virologists who have assessed the
scientific evidence for human-to-bat transmission and efficacy of risk mitigation strategies.
It is the opinion of the panel that there is a credible risk of human-to-bat transmission of SARS-
CoV-2, but this risk can be reduced using appropriate mitigation strategies. This guidance
document has been developed primarily for researchers. The panel recognises that at this time its
recommendations may not be suitable for all stakeholders that come into close proximity or
contact with bats. The panel continues to work with those groups to assess their needs and
produce stakeholder-specific recommendations.
The panel further recognises that our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 is changing rapidly, and
advises researchers that this is a living document with updates anticipated.
Background
Bats are natural hosts of alpha- and betacoronaviruses, as shown by the high diversity and
prevalence of these viruses in many bat species that have been investigated worldwide. However,
there is currently little information on the susceptibility of any bat species to the pandemic SARS-
CoV-2, that recently emerged in the human population. The virus is phylogenetically related to
SARS-associated-CoVs found in rhinolophid bats, suggesting this bat genus is a natural host of the
ancestor of SARS-CoV-2. However, preliminary data coming from experimental infections suggest
that bats can be infected by SARS-CoV-2 in its current form. The risk SARS-CoV-2 poses to the
health of bats (including endangered and physiologically stressed populations) is not yet known,
nor is the potential ability of SARS-CoV-2 to establish and be transmitted from bat-to-bat.
Due to the high circulation of the novel SARS-CoV-2 among humans, it is possible that research or
other activities involving close contact with bats might expose the bats to the virus. According to
the scarce evidence available, the risk of bat infection is considered credible. Given these
concerns, it is essential to protect bats by minimizing their exposure to SARS-CoV-2 from humans
until more evidence can be obtained.
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Hazards
Human-to-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2
Bats could potentially be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 through infectious aerosols, contact, or
environmental contamination. The likelihood of human-to-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2, also
strongly increases in the case of working in or coming from countries with high levels of virus
circulation among humans. This increases the potential for personnel conducting research
activities to be infected and shedding live virus.
Aerosol exposure: Close contact with bats (less than 2 meters) during activities conducted
by symptomatic or asymptomatic people, with or without handling, increasing the
likelihood for airborne transmission of the virus through respiratory droplets. This includes
blowing on bats to assess reproductive status or forcing a bat to release a bite.
Contact exposure: Catching and handling of bats, posing a risk for exposure through
contaminated hands or instruments (e.g. nets, holding bags).
Environmental exposure: Sharing restricted closed areas with bats, such as small cave
passages or chambers, or poorly-ventilated rooms. Environmental contamination includes
lingering aerosols in confined spaces, or virus particles that may remain infectious on
surfaces for a short (unknown) period after someone shedding virus has been present.
Bat-to-bat transmission
The likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 amplification/maintenance through bat-to-bat transmission depends
on the susceptibility of the bats to infection, whether the bats develop an effective immune
response, and, if infected, the extent of virus shedding. These processes are currently unknown.
However, the likelihood of bat-to-bat transmission is predicted to increase in case of:
Infection of bat populations living in closed areas such as small cave passages or chambers.
Highly gregarious species.
Species co-roosting with other species.
Housing of animals in groups for research purposes.
Housing of different groups of either the same or different bat species in proximity for
research.
Sharing of non-disposable equipment between animals (bags, feeding stations etc.).
Bats with comorbidities (i.e., WNS) or under other physiological or environmental stress.
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BSG Mitigation of Human-to-Bat Transmission Strategy: Minimize, Assess, Protect
(MAP)
The likelihood of transmission depends on a cascade of steps:
1: the person must be infected and must shed virus (known to occur with both symptomatic and
asymptomatic infections)
2: the bat must be exposed to the shed virus
3: the bat must be susceptible to infection
Among these, we have limited information about bat susceptibility to the pathogen. However,
steps 1 and 2 can be managed to strongly reduce likelihood of transmission to bats, regardless of
bat susceptibility. Preventing initial exposure of bats to SARS-CoV-2 is also the most critical point
of intervention, because if SARS-CoV-2 establishes in bat populations it will be nearly impossible to
eradicate it.
Recommendations provided mitigate human-to-bat exposure. This is largely based on knowledge
of human-to-human transmission. Guidance for good field hygiene that reduces risks of bat-to-bat
transmission of pathogens (e.g., Pseudogymnoascus destructans) or bat-to-human transmission
are given in BOX 1: FIELD HYGIENE.
We recommend that researchers adopt the BSG Minimize, Assess, Protect mitigation strategy and
“MAP” your plan to prevent human-to-bat transmission:
1. Minimize research activities until more is known about exposure, infectivity and
transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 from humans-to-bats
2. Assess the risk you may pose of exposing bats to SARS-CoV-2 and avoid contact with bats
3. Protect bats by modifying practices to reduce exposure
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1. MINIMIZE research activities through prioritization, delay, replacement, or reduction.
The BSG recognizes the diverse pressures on researchers to resume their programs. Nonetheless,
we recommend that researchers prioritize activities that are essential to bat conservation, animal
health or public health and consider options to delay, replace or reduce non-essential activities.
1.1. Delay
Researchers should seriously consider whether it is possible to delay some research activities until
more is known about the risk of human-to-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2, or a vaccine that
would prevent human-to-bat transmission is available to personnel. In particular, researchers
should consider delaying the start of new projects requiring close proximity to bats. Note that the
BSG will be updating guidelines as more information becomes available.
1.2. Replace
Whenever possible, researchers should implement non-invasive approaches over animal handling,
such as acoustic surveys, emergence counts, observational studies, or environmental samples for
pathogen surveillance.
1.3. Reduce
Reduce the number of sites and individual bats involved in each study to the minimum
needed for valid statistical inference. Ad hoc sampling of bats, capture of bats for teaching
purposes etc., should be discouraged.
Reduce the size of the team (including researchers, students, and other supporting
personnel) to the minimum required for the purpose of the study.
Reducing the duration of close contact with bats may also reduce the probability of
exposure of the bats to an infectious dose of the virus.
2. ASSESS probability you are shedding SARS-CoV-2 and may expose bats
2.1 Regularly assess the probability that you may be shedding SARS-CoV-2 and avoid contact
with bats when infected or potentially exposed to SARS-Co-V-2
All personnel (researchers, technicians, students etc.) at high risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2
should avoid any activity with bats. This includes:
All personnel diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
All personnel showing symptoms typical of COVID-19, such as fever above 37.5 °C / 98.6°F,
cough, fatigue or anosmia (loss or reduction of the ability to smell and taste) in the last 14
days.
All personnel with known contacts with people diagnosed with COVID-19 or showing
typical symptoms within the previous 14 days.
Where available, periodic screening of personnel for the shedding of SARS-CoV-2 should be
implemented in order to minimize the likelihood of transmission during activities and to
eventually detect possible exposure of animals, should a person be found positive within
14 days of activities with bats.
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If travel to the field significantly elevates exposure risk, personnel should rigorously take
steps to minimize exposure from other people wherever possible and consider avoiding
fieldwork for 14 days following arrival at the field site. Personnel should carefully self-
monitor for symptoms.
In addition, researchers should consider minimizing activities with bats according to the
epidemiological situation of their region or country. Epidemic peaks elevate the risk of human-to-
bat transmission from asymptomatic cases. We recognize that knowledge on the local
epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 is highly dependent on the diagnostic capabilities of each country. In
cases where no information is available, the risk should be considered high.
2.2 Assess the probability that you may expose bats to SARS-CoV-2
Research activities carry different levels of exposure probability -- risk increases with the duration
of the interaction, proximity of the researcher, and air circulation.
Observational research, such as acoustic monitoring, roost counts, environmental
pathogen sampling (in the absence of bats) carries no to minimal probability of exposing
bats, providing observers are > 2 m from bats at all times and are not displaying symptoms
such as coughing or sneezing. Symptomatic people are more likely to contaminate the
environment.
Extraction of bats from nets or harp traps presents some probability of exposure; this
increases during processing of captured bats as there is sustained proximity and direct
handling and use of measuring equipment, etc.
Enclosed settings increase the potential for aerosol build up. Subterranean surveys,
behavioral or performance trials in indoor labs, and bats held in captive colonies are high
exposure risk settings, especially if activities are sustained.
3. PROTECT bats by adopting practices that reduce bats’ exposure.
There are several precautions which can be taken to reduce animal exposure to human respiratory
pathogens (including SARS-CoV-2) during fieldwork, including:
Avoid contact when possible: Whenever handling is not required, personnel should
maximize distancing from animals.
Wear a face covering: The use of face masks or coverings should be mandatory either
when handling bats or in proximity (< 2m) to bats or in restricted closed environments.
[see BOX 2: FACE COVERINGS]
Do not blow on bats: To examine nipples, fur coloration or to break bites, use alternatives
such as blunt-ended dissecting scissors to part fur, or wash bottles with a fine nozzle to
blow air (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wash_bottle).
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Practice hand hygiene: Washing and disinfecting hands before starting work, including
before touching equipment that will come into contact with the bats, and at the end of
work.
Use nitrile or latex gloves when handling bats of equipment that will come into contact
with bats. Change or disinfect gloves regularly [See BOX 3: DISINFECTANT]
Avoid touching your face: Avoid touching the face or mask/face covering during work. If
this does happen, carefully wash and disinfect hands afterwards (even in the presence of
gloves), to prevent contamination of hands (or gloves) and equipment, thus minimizing
transmission to the bat.
Disinfect equipment: All reusable equipment including nets, containers, bags or calipers
that have been in direct contact with bats should be disinfected between uses to promote
good field hygiene [BOX 1: FIELD HYGIENE; BOX 3: DISINFECTANTS].
IN PRACTICE: CHANGING or DISINFECTING GLOVES. The purpose of wearing gloves is to
protect the bat from you, specifically from contaminants on your hands. Contaminants come
from your breath, face, mask. Use common sense and self-awareness to evaluate the trade-off
between glove changes/disinfection and timely treatment of bats in nets/traps and awaiting
processing. Adjusting a face covering, touching your face, sneezing, coughing etc., can
transfer contaminants to your gloves, so it is advisable to then change or disinfect.
IN PRACTICE: CRITICAL ACTION: Clearly track all activities and the personnel involved in the
research, in order to have clear information on sites and bats that could have been exposed to
the pathogen, should a researcher be diagnosed with the di
s
ease.
IN PRACTICE: Field Hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protect you from
possible exposure to bat-borne pathogens. These guidelines focus on protecting bats from
SARS-CoV-2 borne by people, but they also provide a foundation for protecting researchers from
bat-borne pathogens. At minimum, researchers should use gloves when handling bats, use face
coverings when in proximity, follow field hygiene practices and have dedicated field clothes.
Bat Specialist Group - MAP to prevent human-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Researchers v 1.0
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BOX 1: FIELD HYGIENE
Field hygiene represents a set of best practices using standard, simple measures to minimize
the risk that research activities result in moving or transferring pathogens between species
and sites. Pathogen transfer to new species or regions can cause severe population declines
and threaten species with regional or global extinction (e.g. White-nose Syndrome in bats,
Chytridiomycosis in amphibians). Impacts of deadly pathogens on wildlife has raised
awareness of the importance of field hygiene for researchers to ensure that our activities do
not cause unintended harm. Research conditions are context-dependent, and our guidance
represents general and basic best practices for field hygiene for standard bat survey
work involving capture and handling of bats. Special considerations and needs should be
developed with your institutional guidance on environmental health and safety protocols.
Before Fieldwork:
Check with your institution regarding animal care and use protocols, permits, and
develop a field safety and hygiene protocol
Field safety and hygiene protocols specific to bat research should include:
Vaccinations and titers for rabies are up-to-date
Recommended basic field hygiene supplies for bat research include:
Spray bottle with 70% ethanol for cleaning gear and surfaces
Containers for disposal of gloves, sharps, or other contaminated materials
Basic PPE considerations for capture and basic handling of bats include
Gloves (leather gloves for large bats, nitrile for small bats and non-handling
hand). Consider putting a nitrile glove over your leather glove or disinfecting
leather gloves. Black nitrile gloves are a better color for photos.
Face coverings or respirators (without exhale valve, see BOX 2)
Dedicated field clothes (long-sleeve shirt and pants/trousers)
Activities such as preparing specimens, taking blood or tissue samples, entering caves
require additional PPE, safety and field hygiene practices.
During Fieldwork:
Basic field hygiene considerations include:
Disinfect surfaces and equipment used to process bats with 70% ethanol or equivalent
(see BOX 3)
Separate your spaces: Do not eat, drink or smoke in the proximity of bats or on
the same surfaces where you are handling bats.
Wash or sanitize your hands as often as possible: before and after using gloves,
before and after bathroom visits, and during breaks.
Avoid touching your face with your gloves on.
Do NOT eat while wearing gloves.
Correctly don, remove, and dispose of any PPE (gloves, masks, etc).
Post Fieldwork:
Disinfect your field and personal equipment at the end of a research expedition and
before moving between regions [See BOX 3].
Properly dispose of biohazard waste (materials contaminated with blood, urine and/or
feces, used gloves, and sharps) following local government guidelines.
Useful References:
CDC Guidance on PPE: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/ppe/ppe-sequence.pdf
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BOX 2: FACE COVERINGS.
Different PPE to reduce respiratory transmission can be used, among which non-valved FFP3
and N95 respirators provide the highest safety for both the bat and the operator.
DO NOT USE VALVED MASKS. This valve is allowing the exhalation of unfiltered breath.
If FFP3 and N95 respirators are unavailable, surgical masks could be used as they provide
comparable protection for the bats (but lower protection for the operators). Dual-layer cloth
masks or face covers (covering the mouth and nose) could be used in substitution of surgical
masks, in countries or situations where respirators or surgical masks are not available, to
reduce exposure to the bats. Materials used as a filter should allow unobstructed breathing,
should not saturate easily with moisture and not extrude fibers or other materials that might be
inhaled.
To be efficient, respirators such as N95 and FFP3 require proper fitting.
Useful References:
Leung, N.H.L., Chu, D.K.W., Shiu, E.Y.C. et al. Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath
and efficacy of face masks. Nat Med 26, 676–680 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-
0843-2
CDC information on understanding the difference between different types of masks and
respirators: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/RespiratorInfographics.html
World Health Organization advice and technical guidance on fabric face mask use:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-Coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-
and-how-to-use-
masks?gclid=Cj0KCQjwz4z3BRCgARIsAES_OVcnx_86KIf0myAISrkQGgXJN2z39ttRnr52vM
Tp8QxX-q3DuyWgffAaAtIrEALw_wcB
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BOX 3. DISINFECTANT RECOMMENDATIONS (part 1 of 3)
Cleaning and disinfecting skin, clothes and equipment are necessary to minimize exposure of
pathogens to both bats and humans. Disinfection agents should be broadly effective, acting
against a wide spectrum of microbes, be non-irritant to skin, and be applied/used according to
manufacturer’s instructions.
Prior to handling bats, researchers should ensure that all equipment has been disinfected.
The tables below are not an all-inclusive list of available disinfectants, but represent
recommendations from the Government of Western Australia, Department of Biodiversity,
Conservation and Attractions SOP Managing Disease Risk in Wildlife Management and the
USF&WS White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocols. There are several additional
resources on disinfectants listed at the end of this document.
Application of disinfectants to skin and gloves (external use only)
Name of agent Concentration Usage Concern
Alcohol-based hand
rubs and sprays
70-90% Rub on hands May dry skin and
irritate open wounds
F10 SC veterinary
disinfectant (liquid or
gel)
1:100 dilution in
water
Spray on hands/gloves
and rub for >30 seconds
Povidone iodine
(Betadine)
Comes as 10%
concentration
Apply to skin Eye irritation.
Dilute Chlorhexidine
(Savlon or Hibitane)
Use according to
manufacturer’s
instructions
Less effective on
bacteria and
ineffective in
presence of organic
material
Continued...
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BOX 3. DISINFECTANT RECOMMENDATIONS (part 2 of 3)
Application of disinfectants to clothing/bat bags/mist nets.
Mist nets: Disinfect nets for 10 minutes, rinse in water, and hang dry
Name of agent Concentration Usage Concern
Virkon 1:200 Soak for >10 minutes,
then rinse in water and
dry
F10 SC veterinary
disinfectant (liquid or
gel)
1:250 dilution in
water
Soak clothes for 30
minutes, then rinse in
water and dry
Bleach (hypochlorite
bleach)
10% bleach (1 part
bleach : 9 parts
water)
Soak for 10 minutes,
then rinse in water and
dry
Corrosive at high
concentrations. Do not
mix with ammonia
compounds.
Launder items Keep clothing in water
with detergent that is >
50°C or 122°F for >20
minutes
Difficulty maintaining
temperature if hand
washing
Continued…
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BOX 3. DISINFECTANT RECOMMENDATIONS (part 3 of 3)
Application of disinfectants to non-submersible equipment (calipers/rulers/field
tables/harp traps)
Clean surfaces with soap and water first before disinfection, if possible. Harp traps: clean
lines/bag, soak parts in disinfectant (if possible) for 10 minutes, then rinse and dry
Name of agent
Concentration
Usage
Concern
3% Quaternary
ammonium (Lysol)
1:128 ratio in water Contact time based on
manufacturer
recommendations. Rinse
with water, then air dry
Irritant
Virkon 1% solution (1:100
with 10g to 1L
water)
Contact time based on
manufacturer
recommendations. Rinse
with water, then air dry
Don’t expose metal
items for greater than
10 minutes. May leave
slight pink color on
plastic items
Bleach (hypochlorite
bleach)
10% bleach (1 part
bleach : 9 parts
water)
Contact time based on
manufacturer
recommendations (>10
minutes preferred). Rinse
with water, then air dry
Corrosive at high
concentrations. Do not
mix with ammonia
compounds.
Ethanol 70-90% With ethanol as a
disinfectant, the contact
time is important and the
higher the %, the faster it
will evaporate
Flammable
World Health Organization: Cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces in the context
of COVID-19
https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/cleaning-and-disinfection-of-environmental-surfaces-
inthe-context-of-covid-19
Centers for Disease Control: Chemical Disinfectants-Guidelines for Disinfection and
Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities
https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-
methods/chemical.html
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USA: List of disinfectants for use against SARS-
CoV-2
https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19
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Additional Research and Recommendations on the Risk of Human-to-Bat Transmission of SARS-
CoV-2
USGS report: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ofr20201060
EUROBATS recommendation: https://www.eurobats.org/node/2602
Wildlife Health Australia:
https://www.wildlifehealthaustralia.com.au/Portals/0/Documents/FactSheets/Public%20health/N
ovel_coronavirus-2019.pdf
[https://www.wildlifehealthaustralia.com.au/Portals/0/Documents/ProgramProjects/COVID-
19_Aust_bat_carers_researchers_12May2020.pdf]
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... Currently, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and good hygiene are considered to be the most effective measures against transmission of the virus(Yee et al. 2020). Indeed, several mitigation measures revolving around PPE have already been recommended to reduce the exposure of bats by infected fieldworkers, for example by the United States Geological Society (USGS)(Runge et al. 2020), The IUCN SSC BSG(Nunez et al. 2020) and EUROBATS(EUROBATS, 2020). Personnel undertaking fieldwork activities should therefore adhere to strict biosecurity principles in line with the aforementioned reports. ...
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The newly evolved coronavirus, SARS‐CoV‐2, which has precipitated a global Covid‐19 pandemic among the human population, has been shown to be associated with disease in captive wild animals. Bats (Chiroptera) have been shown to be susceptible to experimental infection and therefore may be at risk from disease when in contact with infected people. Numerous conservation fieldwork activities are undertaken across the United Kingdom bringing potentially infected people into close proximity with bats. In this study we analysed the risks of disease from SARS‐CoV‐2 to free‐living bat species in England through fieldworkers undertaking conservation activities and ecological survey work, using a qualitative, transparent method devised for assessing threats of disease to free‐living wild animals. The probability of exposure of bats to SARS‐CoV‐2 through fieldwork activities was estimated to range from negligible to high, depending on the proximity between bats and people during the activity. The likelihood of infection after exposure was estimated to be high and the probability of dissemination of the virus through bat populations medium. The likelihood of clinical disease occurring in infected bats was low and therefore the ecological, economic and environmental consequences predicted to be low. The overall risk estimation was low and therefore mitigation measures are advisable. There is uncertainty in the pathogenicity of SARS‐CoV‐2 in bats and therefore in the risk estimation. Disease risk management measures are suggested, including the use of personal protective equipment, good hand hygiene and following the existing government advice. The disease risk analysis should be updated as information on the epidemiology of SARS‐CoV‐2 and related viruses in bats improves. The re‐analysis may be informed by health surveillance of free‐living bats.
... Group recommended that all field work involving contact with bats be suspended while the risk of human to bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is assessed (Nuñez et al., 2020). With the suspension of further field-based research and the risk of greater public persecution, it has become increasingly important to mobilise available data informing bat species distributions, diversity assessments, population trends, and responses to environmental variables such as habitat fragmentation and urbanisation. ...
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Bats are a highly diverse mammalian order and are some of the most economically important non-domesticated vertebrates, providing many ecosystem services that contribute to the global economy. Yet, they remain a largely understudied taxon, particularly in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, in which basic surveys of bat assemblages utilising indigenous forests are lacking. Indigenous forests constitute South Africa’s smallest and most fragmented biome yet support disproportionally high biodiversity. They have been fragmented throughout most of their evolutionary history due to global palaeoclimatic shifts; the responses of bats to forest fragmentation and historical climatic shifts in this habitat have been poorly studied. This study addresses these gaps with the broad aims of compiling a species inventory from 17 forests across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces; assessing the effects of fragmentation and biogeography on taxonomic and functional diversity of bat assemblages; and determining how genetic diversity and population genetic structure are informed by forest habitat associations and fragmentation. A multi-faceted approach of sampling methods, including capture and acoustic recording, and species identification techniques (morphology, acoustics, and DNA barcoding) were used to assemble an inventory of 25 species, with range extensions noted for six species. The first reference call library of hand released bats for forests in this region is presented, which may be used for species identification in further acoustic surveys. A minimum acoustic monitoring period of 6 to 7 nights per forest is recommended for future surveys. Forest biogeography was an important determinant of the functional diversity of insectivorous bat assemblages. Forest edge effects were found to demonstrate a positive relationship with functional evenness, thus motivating for maintenance and conservation of forest edges, particularly in temperate regions. Larger forearm length and low wing loading were identified as morphological traits exhibiting greater sensitivity to fragmentation, flagging species exhibiting these traits as potentially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation. The effect of historical climate-induced fluctuations of forest extent on population genetic structuring and demographic histories for six species was investigated using two mitochondrial markers, cytochrome b and D-loop. Population genetic trends were not informed by forest habitat associations, but rather by species-specific traits of dispersal ability, philopatry, and roost utilisation. Low genetic diversity and high population structure identify two species, Rhinolophus swinnyi and Laephotis botswanae, for conservation priority. Demographic responses to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) were not detected, with all six species displaying population expansions over this time. It appears that volant insectivores in eastern South Africa were less affected by the harsh conditions of the LGM than elsewhere. The dusky pipistrelle (Pipistrellus hesperidus) was used as a model organism to investigate the gene flow, genetic diversity, and migration of a forest-utilising species across the region with the use of eight microsatellite markers. The effects of urbanisation and agricultural development on gene flow were also examined. Findings of low population structure, low migration rates, and two genetic discontinuities were presented. This species does not depict dependence on forested habitats to maintain genetic connectivity on the landscape. The data also suggest that agricultural development and urbanisation have not yet had an impact on gene flow, thus providing a baseline with which to monitor the effects of future anthropic development on this species. Overall, this study has provided novel insights into the taxonomic, functional, and genetic diversity of forest-utilising bats in relation to biogeographical history and fragmentation within eastern South Africa.
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This Report provides a comprehensive, objective, open, transparent, systematic, and rigorous scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon’s ecosystems, current trends, and their implications for the long-term well-being of the region, as well as opportunities and policy relevant options for conservation and sustainable development.
Chapter
Forests and aquatic ecosystems are the basis for ecosystem services, which play a crucial role in people’s livelihoods, human well-being, and health. Some of the most relevant and challenging current health problems in Amazonia are associated with deforestation and degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including the risk of contracting infectious diseases, respiratory and cardiovascular problems caused by exposure to smoke from forest fires, and mercury (Hg) contamination due to mining and other deforestation and biomass burning practices. Emergent, re-emergent, and endemic infectious diseases in the Amazon have all been associated with environmental changes driven by rapid human population growth and/or socioeconomic transition. Yet the relationship between forest conversion and fragmentation and the incidence of infectious disease is complex, scale-dependent, and heavily modulated by socioecological feedbacks. Amazonia is also a region of exceptionally high (yet poorly known) diversity of viruses and viral hosts, exacerbating the risks of potential zoonotic spillovers. Another major environmental and public health concern in the Amazon basin is mercury contamination resulting from gold mining, hydropower dams, deforestation, and petroleum extraction. Not only are Amazon basin communities exposed to high Hg concentrations at risk of toxicological contamination, but environmental effects on water resources, fisheries and wildlife are seen throughout Amazonian ecosystems. As a result, communities with high levels of fish consumption present some of the world’s highest recorded Hg levels. The impact of fires are also a big concern, since they emit large quantities of particulate matter and other pollutants that degrade air quality and affect human health, especially among vulnerable groups in the Amazon. Here we demonstrate that environmental degradation is also a socio-economic issue, affecting the health of millions of Amazonians and compromises the quality of life and human health of future generations.
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SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, infected over 100 million people globally by February 2021. Reverse zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to other species has been documented in pet cats and dogs, big cats and gorillas in zoos, and farmed mink. As SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to known bat viruses, assessment of the potential risk of transmission of the virus from humans to bats, and its subsequent impacts on conservation and public health, is warranted. A qualitative risk assessment was conducted by a multi-disciplinary group to assess this risk in bats in the Australian context, with the aim of informing risk management strategies for human activities involving interactions with bats. The overall risk of SARS-CoV-2 establishing in an Australian bat population was assessed to be Low, however with a High level of uncertainty. The outcome of the assessment indicates that, for the Australian situation where the prevalence of COVID-19 in humans is very low, it is reasonable for research and rehabilitation of bats to continue, provided additional biosecurity measures are applied. Risk assessment is challenging for an emerging disease where information is lacking and the situation is changing rapidly; assessments should be revised if human prevalence or other important factors change significantly. The framework developed here, based on established animal disease risk assessment approaches adapted to assess reverse zoonotic transmission, has potential application to a range of wildlife species and situations.
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Bats are often claimed to be a major source for future viral epidemics, as they are associated with several viruses with zoonotic potential. Here we describe the presence and biodiversity of bats associated with intensive pig farms devoted to the production of heavy pigs in northern Italy. Since chiropters or signs of their presence were not found within animal shelters in our study area, we suggest that fecal viruses with high environmental resistance have the highest likelihood for spillover through indirect transmission. In turn, we investigated the circulation of mammalian orthoreoviruses (MRVs), coronaviruses (CoVs) and astroviruses (AstVs) in pigs and bats sharing the same environment. Results of our preliminary study did not show any bat virus in pigs suggesting that spillover from these animals is rare. However, several AstVs, CoVs and MRVs circulated undetected in pigs. Among those, one MRV was a reassortant strain carrying viral genes likely acquired from bats. On the other hand, we found a swine AstV and a MRV strain carrying swine genes in bat guano, indicating that viral exchange at the bat–pig interface might occur more frequently from pigs to bats rather than the other way around. Considering the indoor farming system as the most common system in the European Union (EU), preventive measures should focus on biosecurity rather than displacement of bats, which are protected throughout the EU and provide critical ecosystem services for rural settings.
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