Maria Orlova, an employee of the Biological Diversity Monitoring Laboratory at TSU, studies the ecology of bats, their contacts with other animals and the potential danger of bats to humans. Together with her Czech colleagues, she examined samples collected in Russia.
“Bats are a very large group, in fact, the second largest after rodents, so it could be assumed that this detachment is the host of a large number of various pathogens,” explains Maria Orlova. - And in recent years, this hypothesis has been confirmed: indeed, according to preliminary data, bats are carriers of several hundred viral, bacterial, protozoal and fungal pathogens, including those dangerous to humans (for example, the Ebola virus). At the same time, there is still not much information about the role of ectoparasites of bats in the circulation of these microorganisms.
Maria Orlova, an employee of the biological diversity monitoring laboratory at the BI TSU at work / © Photo from the archive of the BI TSU scientists Maria Orlova and Alexander Zhigalin
The first data on infections associated with ectoparasites of bats in southern Russia were published in early 2019. They demonstrated the presence of pathogens in synanthropic (that is, living next to humans) species of bats and arthropods parasitizing them. This made the work of Russian and Czech scientists even more relevant. The studies, in the course of which it was possible to obtain new information about bats, were carried out on the basis of the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences of Brno. Maria Orlova worked there during an internship, which she won under the program of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic.
“For the analysis, we used numerous collections from many territories of the Russian Federation and the states of the former USSR (partially collected by us and our Czech colleagues, partially provided by chiropterologists),” says Maria Orlova. - The presence of DNA pathogens (bacteria Bartonella, Rikketsia, Anaplasma) was determined by PCR (real-time). The DNA of Bartonella (the causative agent of bartenellosis) in ectoparasites of bats was first discovered in several territories, including Western Siberia, including the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug. The DNA of rickettsia was also found there (some representatives of this genus are the causative agents of fevers).
At the moment, the scientific group is awaiting confirmation of the results obtained, as well as clarification of the species belonging of the identified pathogens. After that, it will be possible to draw a conclusion about the danger of these pathogens to humans. In fact, the first stage of a pioneering large-scale project for Russia to study infections associated with ectoparasites of bats has been completed.
As Maria Orlova notes, some of the positive samples come from colonies located in cities and other settlements. It should be remembered that bats are a protected group of animals and an important component of the ecosystem, so their destruction can in no way be a measure to combat the spread of infections. So if there is a bat in your apartment, scientists strongly advise against touching it with your bare hands, you can only act with gloves.
We add that the presence of "nocturnal" animals in the houses of Tomsk residents is far from uncommon. In the warm season, the townspeople who find bats in their entrance or on the balcony often turn to BI TSU. In such cases, biologists come and take away the "uninvited guests."