Bats, in Black and White

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Science  06 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5992, pp. 634-635
DOI: 10.1126/science.1194089

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Over the years, disease researchers have fingered bats as the reservoir for a series of high-profile lethal agents, including rabies, Ebola, Hendra, Nipah, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (1). Predicting when an infectious disease might jump from a host species such as bats to other wildlife or humans, however, has been a tough task. On page 676 of this issue, Streicker et al. draw on a study of rabies in bats to provide some important insights into the complex dynamics of cross-species transmission (2). Ironically, these bat-inspired insights come as Frick et al. report on page 679 that an emerging fungal disease seriously threatens bat populations in the Northeastern United States (3). The two studies demonstrate the value and importance of monitoring wildlife diseases, which can have major impacts on both human health and ecosystems.