Science  06 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6150, pp. 1049

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  1. A Cap on Mammal Virus Numbers

    There are at least 320,000 viruses in mammals still waiting to be discovered, report scientists who have studied flying foxes in Bangladesh. From 2006 to 2010, the researchers caught hundreds of the big bats and collected urine and fecal samples as well as throat swabs before letting them go again. They then fished out all the viral sequences they could find belonging to nine virus families, including coronaviruses, herpesviruses, and influenza A viruses.

    They found 55 viruses in all, 50 of which had never been seen before. Using statistical methods, they found that three viruses were likely missed, for a total of 58. Extrapolating to the 5486 other mammal species, that means about 320,000 viruses in total, the team reports this week in mBio.

    The research cost approximately $1.2 million, the authors calculate, and identifying all 320,000 mammal viruses in the wild would cost about $6.3 billion. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance and one of the authors, says that identifying all viruses would help in combating future outbreaks. "It would be the beginning of the end for pandemics."