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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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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

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News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."