Fondren Science Series


For many years bats have been known to be harbingers of various agents which produce disease in man. Elsewhere in this volume certain parasites of bats are discussed including the association of these animals with Trypanosoma cruzi in South America and Texas (Ubelaker, 1970). Little is known concerning the association of bats with bacteria which cause disease in man. Four serotypes of Salmonella known to cause salmonellosis have been isolated from bats, one from bats collected in the Canal Zone (Klite & Kourany, 1965) and the other three from bats collected in southwestern Colombia, South America (Arata et al., 1968). In the latter study a single isolation of Shigella was obtained, presumably the first from a bat. Sufficient information has not been obtained, however, to determine if these bacterial infections in bats are of public health importance. Bats are now believed to play an important role in the dissemination in nature of the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum. Bats and bat caves have been associated with human cases of pulmonary histoplasmosis in various areas throughout the world (see Tesh & Schneidau, 1966) and studies with experimentally- and naturally infected bats have shown that these animals excrete Histoplasma capsulatum in their feces (Klite & Diercks, 1965; Tesh & Schneidau, 1966). Since this fungus is transmitted via the respiratory route, those individuals who frequent bat caves, such as spelunkers and persons engaged in mining guano, and also investigators involved in various studies with these animals, should be aware of the danger of contracting histoplasmosis. A plethora of other disease-producing agents have been associated with bats (Sulkin, 1962). In this report emphasis will be placed on a discussion of bats as reservoir hosts of viruses, particularly rabiesvirus and certain of the arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses). The ability of bats to function in the perpetuation of these viruses in nature is enhanced by the fact that, with the exception of some strains of rabiesvirus which under certain conditions may produce erratic behavior and death of bats, these animals may remain persistently infected with these viruses without exhibiting overt signs of disease. Various physiological and behavioral characteristics of bats which suggested the manner in which these animals could serve effectively as reservoir hosts for the arboviruses will be presented in connection with a discussion of an extended series of experimental and field studies which have established the role of bats in the ecology of Japanese and St. Louis encephalitis viruses.

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