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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.

Biden headed to the Hill as Democrats struggle to reach deal on spending bills

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday morning will meet with the House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill to provide an update about his Build Back Better agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure deal, according to a White House official.

Driving the news: The meeting comes as Democrats struggle to reach a deal on the spending bills. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Sunday that Democrats were planning to reach an agreement on the infrastructure package this week, before Biden's departure to Europe, which is slated for later on Thursday.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
42 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.