Published On: Tue, Apr 21st, 2020

Koalas face threat of EXTINCTION from deadly virus carried by bats | World | News

The viruses, that have been found in bats can trigger the koala retrovirus called KoRV, meaning they are more susceptible to cancers and infections such as kidney failure. It can also depress the immune system of koalas, like HIV does in humans. This comes as bats are thought to be responsible for the spread of coronavirus, which is currently sweeping across the globe killing thousands.

A study led by Burnet Institute and CSIRO scientists has revealed bats could be carrying the deadly koala virus.

Co-author of the study, Dr Joshua Hayward, said: “This could explain how KoRV-related viruses originally got to Australia from South-East Asia in the first place, and it highlights the role of bats as really important reservoirs of viruses that can be transmitted to other animal species.

“Our nation is trying to conserve koala populations decimated by the fires, but how can they be protected from viruses?

“The existence and spread of KoRV and other infectious threats is something likely to concern conservation scientists.

“These viruses cause some nasty diseases—leukemias, lymphomas, and immunodeficiency—and while this particular one can infect human cells in the laboratory, whether it can establish infection and cause disease in humans is unknown and would be surprising given current knowledge of this class of retrovirus.”

Koalas are already struggling to survive after Australia’s unprecedented fires over the summer.

SEE MORE: Australia bushfires: Express readers’ generosity is saving koalas

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has published a report revealing that Australian and Asian bats are carriers of the virus.

Bats can transmit viruses without being affected by them, which is how COVID-19 is believed to have started too.

In the late 19th and early 20th century koala numbers plummeted due to hunting for their fur.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has named koalas among the most vulnerable to climate change.

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