Bats as 'special' reservoirs for emerging zoonotic pathogens

Cara E. Brook, Andrew P. Dobson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

313 Scopus citations


The ongoing West African Ebola epidemic highlights a recurring trend in the zoonotic emergence of virulent pathogens likely to come from bat reservoirs that has caused epidemiologists to ask 'Are bats special reservoirs for emerging zoonotic pathogens?' We collate evidence from the past decade to delineate mitochondrial mechanisms of bat physiology that have evolved to mitigate oxidative stress incurred during metabolically costly activities such as flight. We further describe how such mechanisms might have generated pleiotropic effects responsible for tumor mitigation and pathogen control in bat hosts. These synergisms may enable 'special' tolerance of intracellular pathogens in bat hosts; paradoxically, this may leave them more susceptible to immunopathological morbidity when attempting to clear extracellular infections such as 'white-nose syndrome' (WNS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-180
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology
  • Microbiology


  • Chiroptera
  • Emerging zoonotic pathogens
  • Immunological tolerance
  • Immunopathology
  • Reactive oxygen species


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