These viruses typically cause respiratory and intestinal illnesses and have already caused three epidemics in the last 20 years – SARS in 2002, MERS in 2012, and COVID-19 in 2019.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is believed to have jumped to humans from infected horseshoe bats in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei Province, in late 2019.
The winged mammals are also suspected of passing the virus onto other species – possibly pangolins.
Much like the rats identified by the Princeton researchers, the bats can carry multiple coronaviruses without falling ill themselves.
According to the researchers, this raises the need to identify and better understand which other species have developed a resistance to viral pathogens.
Last year, for example, scientists studying Uganda’s native bat populations identified a strain of the airborne rubella virus, which is responsible for German measles.