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A researcher holds up a wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bat in Thailand. Photo: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

A new study makes the case for more research to understand how bats are connected to emerging infectious diseases.

Why it matters: Bats have been the likely animal reservoir for a number of emerging viruses, including the novel coronavirus. Better understanding the role they play in disease ecology could help us head off the next pandemic.

How it works: The bat immune system limits virus-induced inflammation, which may allow them to tolerate more viruses than other mammals, researchers note in the new paper, published in Science.

  • Combine that with their dense population and highly social behavior — which puts them in contact with humans — and bats seem to be the perfect animal agents for viral spillovers.

Yes, but: "We seem to be lacking really strong, compelling evidence that the viruses of bats are more diverse or more prone to infect humans or more dangerous when they do infect humans than viruses of other animals," Daniel Streicker, a vampire bat researcher at the University of Glasgow and co-author of the study, told the New York Times.

  • To answer that question, the researchers argue, we need to create a "meta-network" of bat research that includes geneticists, immunologists and ecologists who can better understand how bats and their viruses interact with humans.

The bottom line: New human diseases almost always start with animals, and until we know better, bats should be the first on the list.

Go deeper

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.