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The Way of the Pathway – Wiener Zeitung Online

Fluorescent powder demonstrates the migration and social connection of bats.Fluorescent powder demonstrates the migration and social connection of bats.© Virginia Tech / Joe Hoyt and Kate Langwig
Fluorescent powder demonstrates the migration and social connection of bats.© Virginia Tech / Joe Hoyt and Kate Langwig

Blacksburg / Vienna. Wild pathogens have spread to humans several times and have created local or even worldwide epidemics. Such was unnecessary and is about the HI virus, Ebola, Sars or the Asian Nipah virus. In order to find out what diseases are spreading – sometimes hidden – US researchers at Virginia Tech University tried to help bats, follow their migration and observe that fatal fungal disease, including a white-blooded syndrome, scattered.

Since 2006, about 6.7 million bats have died in North America. Spores in the virus will remain in the infected area and have been a source of infection for many years. Animals that use this place in winter are exposed to this threat every year. For humans, fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans does not pose a threat, but researchers use it because the importance of bats is mentioned as an example in the dissertation scenarios Nature.

contact signs
The research team led by Joseph Hoyt studied the animals and outlined their social network. In addition, researchers observed which bats, for example, during hibernation, only interact with their own group, and the patterns move between different groups. As a result, some fluorescent dust samples were seen in the early winter period, which shone in ultraviolet light. It used a different color for each animal. Late in the winter the researchers returned to what color to find.

"We collected large amounts of data from each bat, and fluorescent remains were used to track the paths and relationships of each animal," said Kate Langwig of Virginia Tech's Department of Biosciences. In this way, they were able to recognize which animal left their mark or which port they received and carried. The researchers also understood which bats were in direct contact with each other and realized that there were encounters that did not wait.

Earlier, scientists assumed that the diseases were being absorbed most closely by our social environment – within the family, among friends or colleagues. "We mostly forget the staff working in the supermarket, the cafe bar or the neighbors of the subway," says the study. We are aware that it does not involve the importance of the spread of the epidemic. But the big problem is probably these hidden interactions, according to the researchers. They talk of so-called "secret connections".

Loner is protected
"Such mysterious relationships are important pathways among people who are not generally in contact, as researchers often ignore the past, but this study shows their significance," says Langwig.

Especially in a species, this was particularly evident – the brown, long-haired, known as the restless, and thus not overwhelmed in the groups. The fluorescent powder has already produced such interactions that would never have occurred. "We never thought that infection could spread," Hoy wondered. The East American dwarf bat, the infamous lonely, showed a much lower infection. He had hardly any unknowable encounters with him. It is mainly limited to the home area that provides protection. Imitation is more counterproductive to us than people. The dangers are now clearly on the table.

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