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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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VMG president joins House of Lords

News Story 1
 Miles Russell, president of the Veterinary Management Group (VMG), has been elected to the House of Lords as a crossbench hereditary peer.

He will join Lord Trees as a representative of the veterinary sector in the second chamber of the UK parliament.

Lord Russell said: "Those of us working in the animal health and veterinary sectors are only too aware of the importance of the work we do and the challenges we face.

"I will use my platform in the House of Lords to increase understanding of our sectors and to promote positive change." 

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News Shorts
Sixth case of bluetongue confirmed

A sixth case of bluetongue virus serotype 3 has been confirmed in the UK.

The case was detected in an animal on a premises linked to one of the farms within the Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) currently in place near Canterbury, Kent.

In response, the Animal and Plant Health Agency has extended the TCZ. Investigations into the spread of the disease are ongoing.

The cases in Kent come at a time when a new strain of the virus has spread rapidly across farms in the Netherlands. Both the Government and the British Veterinary Association have urged livestock keepers to remain vigilant.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and suspected cases must be reported immediately on 03000 200 301 in England or 03003 038 268 in Wales. In Scotland, possible cases should be reported to the local field services office.