COVID-19 Impact

March 17, 2021

Bats are essential to healthy ecosystems and shouldn’t be killed, but this message is eroded when accompanied by disclaimers urging us to stay away from bats combined with images of researchers in protective uniforms working with bats. Continue reading

March 27, 2020

Merlin’s op-ed, “A Viral Witch Hunt,” published in Issues in Science and Technology on March 27, 2020 illustrates how misguided focus on bats as speculated sources of scary diseases threatens an invaluable resource and leads to misdirection of public health resources. Continue reading

Bats and Disease Facts

  • Bats harbor no more viruses than other animals1.
  • Claims of disease from bats are often based on poorly supported speculation2,3.
  • Reports of 96% genomic similarity between viruses are misleading without proper perspective. We are at least that related to chimpanzees but remain vastly different4.
  • Promises to predict future pandemics are misdirecting billions of dollars to virus hunting that is biased against bats and could be better invested in other public health priorities5,6,7.
  • Bats have an undeniable history of living with humans without causing disease outbreaks8.
  • There is a long history of disease exaggerations harming bat conservation9.
  • Fear of bats leads to intolerance and killing9,10 .
  • Asking people to conserve bats because they are beneficial, while failing to counter exaggerated fear, is unlikely to improve conservation success10.
  • There are no confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from bats to humans11.
  • SARS, MERS, SARS-CoV-2, and Ebola have not been isolated in, nor proven to be transmitted from a bat to a human, despite frequent speculation and intense searching12,13,14,15,16.

Updated 3/17/21


  1. Mollentze, N. & Streicker, D. G. Viral zoonotic risk is homogenous among taxonomic orders of mammalian and avian reservoir hosts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2020) doi:10.1073/pnas.1919176117.
  2. Wenzel, J. Origins of SARS‐CoV‐1 and SARS‐CoV‐2 are often poorly explored in leading publications. Cladistics cla.12425 (2020) doi:10.1111/cla.12425.
  3. Puechmaille, S. J. et al. Misconceptions and misinformation about bats and viruses. International Journal of Infectious Diseases (2021) doi:10.1016/j.ijid.2021.02.097.
  4. Mikkelsen, T. S. et al. Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome. Nature 437, 69–87 (2005).
  5. Holmes, E. C., Rambaut, A. & Andersen, K. G. Pandemics: Spend on surveillance, not prediction. Nature 558, 180–182 (2018).
  6. Zhang, Y.-Z. & Holmes, E. C. A Genomic Perspective on the Origin and Emergence of SARS-CoV-2. Cell (2020) doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.03.035.
  7. Tuttle, M. D. A Viral Witch Hunt. Issues in Science and Technology (2020).
  8. Tuttle, M. D. Threats to bats and educational challenges. in Bat Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation 363–391 (2013). doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-7397-8_18.
  9. Tuttle, M. D. Fear of Bats and its Consequences. Journal of Bat Research & Conservation 10, (2017).
  10. Lu, M. et al. Does public fear that bats spread COVID-19 jeopardize bat conservation? Biological Conservation 108952 (2021) doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2021.108952.
  11. do Vale, B. et al. Bats, pangolins, minks and other animals – villains or victims of SARS-CoV-2? Veterinary Research Communications vol. 45 1–19 (2021).
  12. Racey, P. A., Fenton, B., Mubareka, S., Simmons, N. & Tuttle, M. D. Don’t misrepresent link between bats and SARS. Nature vol. 553 281 (2018).
  13. Azhar, E. I. et al. Evidence for Camel-to-Human Transmission of MERS Coronavirus. New England Journal of Medicine 370, 2499–2505 (2014).
  14. Xiao, K. et al. Isolation and characterization of 2019-nCoV-like coronavirus from malayan pangolins. bioRxiv 2020.02.17.951335 (2020) doi:10.1101/2020.02.17.951335.
  15. Kock, R. A. et al. Searching for the source of Ebola: the elusive factors driving its spillover into humans during the West African outbreak of 2013-2016. Rev. Sci. Tech. Off. Int. Epiz vol. 38 (2019).
  16. Kupferschmidt, K. New Ebola outbreak likely sparked by a person infected 5 years ago. Science (2021) doi:10.1126/science.abi4876.