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Rapid evolution may have helped bats avoid cancer, study finds
The researchers sequenced the genomes of the Jamaican fruit bat (pictured) and the Mesoamerican mustached bat.

It may also help them tolerate viruses.

A study has suggested that rapid evolution may be the reason why bats are able to avoid cancer, and also tolerate viral infections like SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers aimed to investigate bats’ low cancer rates and robust immune system, with the theory that it may have implications for human health. For example, performing comparative genomic analysis of bats against mammals that are susceptible to cancer may lead to new discoveries on the causes of cancer, and its links with immunity.

It could also further our understanding of why bats are tolerant to zoonotic viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, before they get passed onto humans. This could lead to work that may better prevent disease outbreaks from animals to people.

The investigation involved the researchers using the Oxford Nanopores Technologies long-read platform to sequence the genomes of two bat species, the Jamaican fruit bat and the Mesoamerican mustached bat, which have key evolutionary positions.

They then conducted a comparative genomic analysis with a diverse collection of bats and other mammals.

This found genetic adaptations in six DNA repair-related proteins and 46 proteins in bats that were cancer-related. It revealed that these altered cancer-related genes were twice as enriched in the bats compared to other mammals.

The analysis identified antiviral genes that showed evidence of rapid evolution. There were also positive selection signs in 33 tumour suppressors and 6 DNA-repair genes which may contribute to bats’ increased longevity and reduced cancer rates.

This shows that the immune systems of bats rely on bat-wide and lineage-specific evolution among their genes, which suggests diverse immune strategies.

Armin Scheben, the lead author, said: “By generating these new bat genomes and comparing them to other mammals we continue to find extraordinary new adaptations in antiviral and anticancer genes,

“These investigations are the first step towards translating research on the unique biology of bats into insights relevant to understanding and treating aging and diseases, such as cancer, in humans.”

The full study can be found in the Genome Biology and Evolution journal.

Image © Shutterstock

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Reporting service for dead wild birds updated

News Story 1
 The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has updated its online reporting service for dead wild birds.

The new version allows those reporting a dead bird to drop a pin on a map when reporting the location. It also includes a wider range of wild bird species groups to select from when describing the bird.

The online service, which helps APHA to monitor the spread of diseases such as avian influenza, can be accessed here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
NI chief vet urges bluetongue vigilance

Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer (CVO) has urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of bluetongue, after the Animal and Plant Health Agency warned there was a very high probability of further cases in Great Britain.

There have been 126 confirmed cases of bluetongue virus serotype 3 in England since November 2023, with no cases reported in Northern Ireland. The movement of live ruminants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is currently suspended.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the virus is most likely to enter Northern Ireland through infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova) being imported.

Brian Dooher, Northern Ireland's CVO, said: "Surveillance for this disease within Northern Ireland has been increased to assist with detection at the earliest opportunity which will facilitate more effective control measures."

Farmers should report any suspicions of the disease to their private veterinary practitioner, the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or their local DAERA Direct Veterinary Office.