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Bats captured and tested for Covid-19 in Chanthaburi

14 Jun 2020

More than 100 crowned bats have been collected by a team of researchers and wildlife authorities from a cave in Pong Nam Ron district of Chanthaburi for study into the Covid-19 pandemic.

The search for the crowned bats in the eastern province follows reports of the coronavirus strain which caused the pandemic to be identified with the one seen in crowned bats. This is the first time the crowned bats have been captured for a study, according to thai researchers.

The team members include Supaporn Watcharaprueksadee, deputy director at Thailand 's Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Chulalongkorn University, veterinarian Pattharaphol Manee-on, and Kasetsart University forestry expert Pratheep Duangkhae.

Supported by park rangers from Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary and troops from the 544th Marines Battalion, the squad reached the Sado Cave in Thapsai tambon on Thursday and set up nets to trap the bats.

Over 100 were captured from 6 pm until 3 am in the hunt. Blood, saliva, and droppings samples were collected for testing to determine whether the coronavirus is carried by the bats.

Dr. Supaporn, whose team was identifying coronavirus strain in Thailand's horseshoe bats, said multiple studies triggered the analysis.

He said Thailand has 23 types of crowned bats and this is the first time that they have been collected for a comprehensive study.
"We've been conducting research on bats and the related diseases for nearly 20 years, but we've never studied the crowned bats until now," she said.

Dr. Supaporn said it might be possible to find the novel coronavirus in Thailand's crowned bats, and studies will be expanded if the virus is detected.

She expressed concerns about people who eat bat meat or come into close contact with unprotected bats, saying they are at risk of being infected.

Mr. Pattharaphol shared her fears, suggesting that local communities should be informed about the risks of being bitten by the animals, particularly those residing near bat habitats.

He added that researchers were also studying crowned bats' migration routes which may hold the key to preventing a new outbreak of Covid-19. "The easiest way of protecting ourselves from the diseases, however, is not to hunt wild animals and learn to co-exist with them," he said. "If we can do that they will not be able to transmit the diseases to people."