SARS and bats - safe for now.
Last fall there was a bit of a stir in the bat world when some research indicated that bats might be the original source for SARS. While I was at NASBR in October, the CDC conducted an anonymous survey of bat researchers to see if there was any evidence to support human infections of SARS transmitted by bats. I was intrigued, and being perversely proud of having been chomped on by bats, I joined in. Recently I got an email from the CDC with preliminary results. Of 350 conference attendees, 90 agreed to participate by donating blood for testing. Most (88%) worked in North America, but there was also exposure to bats in most other areas of the world. Twenty participants had exposure to the Chinese horseshoe bat cited in the original SARS research. Of the 90 tests, all were negative for human SARS-CoV antibodies. So, while the study was too small to rule out transmission of this virus from bats to humans, it seems pretty clear that bat workers are not a a bigger risk for the disease. As long as we've had our rabies series, we're probably much safer working with bats in the field than hanging around with our own species.