Virology update

According to a new study, pangolins have so many coronaviruses that they should never be touched without gloves.
Personally, I decided never to handle wild mammals without gloves and a face mask again. The reasons are as follows:
1. You can pick up a (possibly unknown) pathogen and die. Look up Marburg virus. Happened with bat researchers, rodent researchers, etc.
2. You can pick up a (possibly unknown) pathogen and start a global pandemic. Happened a few times recently, as well as in more distance past (smallpox apparently jumped to humans from African gerbils), and will happen more often in the future.
3. You can pick up a (possibly unknown) pathogen, become an asymptomatic carrier, infect the next wild animal you handle, and cause a species extinction or even a mass extinction of multiple species. We don’t know if that has ever happened, but similar things happened with white nose syndrome and frog chytrid fungus.
4. You can infect the animal with a human pathogen you carry. For example, we now know that COVID-19 is asymptomatic in half of human cases, and it can cause outbreaks in <a href="http://“>ferrets, and likely other carnivores, bats etc. That might result in wiping out a species or, in worse-case scenario, a significant chunk of biodiversity. Pangolins, for example, are particularly vulnerable because they are missing about a third of genes for immune system.
Even if you don’t care about yourself and your species, please try to make it safe for wildlife: put on gloves and mask! And, of course, don’t forget to sterilize all your shoes, clothes, traps, mistnets and other tools when moving between geographical regions.


  • Lee

    Yes, and I once got rabies from handling a dead red fox. Remote camp in the Arctic (now Nunavut), 1972; I sent the head into the rabies lab in Alberta as a matter of course and forgot about it. A few days later the RCMP (Royal Columbia Mounted Police) landed in their twin otter with a warrant for my arrest! Seems the pathologist ordered that I be brought in for rabies shots, but no one knew how to contact me (no address on the package) so the RCMP were asked to find me. They have procedures, and “they always get their man”.

  • Jens

    Maybe we shouldn’t handle wild mammals in the first place?! It is obvious that it is part of many scientific studies (and there scientists take the appropriate precautions, I believe) but other than that I don’t see the need for it.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Unfortunately, scientists don’t always take necessary precautions, which is one reason so many of them die from zoonotic diseases (I can remember at least a dozen cases off the top of my head). Not the only reason, though, because even if you do take all the precautions, it can still happen.
      The line between amateur mammalwatchers and scientists is extremely blurry nowadays; catching small mammals in remote areas can always result in scientific discoveries. And even if you don’t like catching wild animals, you still get into situations when it just happens. They can enter your hotel room or tent, require rescue from highways or illegal roadside stalls, bats land on you in confined spaces, mice turn up in your backpack or sleeping bag, and so on.

  • Bud Lensing

    Given the popularity of the wildlife trade especially in China and Africa, it is amazing this hasn’t happened sooner. Especially with Pangolins. Maybe this pandemic can help to stop or slow down the wildlife trade.

  • Jean Michel BOMPAR

    (Desperatly) the first specie people want to save is Human. I recently received this warning :

    Dear Bat Researchers,

    Good day! More than 130 bat species have been recorded in China. None of them are included in the List of Chinese State Key Protected Wildlife, although some bat species are in rapid decline in recent decades. Many Chinese people experience intense panic at the thought of bats and some even propose to kill bats since the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In this case, we are dedicated to gathering researchers’ opinions on the major threats and conservation strategies of bats in China. We restricted the population surveyed to researchers and students worldwide that have research experience on bats. Through this brief survey, your answers may be helpful in improving the conservation status of bats in China. There is no right or wrong answer to the question. Your response will only be used for survey purposes. Thank you very much for your valuable time and suggestions! More than 600 colleagues worldwide have participated in this survey. Please feel free to distribute it. If you have already submitted the questionnaire please disregard.
    Here is the network link of our self-designed questionnaire:

    Bo Luo, PhD
    Key Laboratory of Southwest China Wildlife Resources Conservation (Ministry of Education), China West Normal University 1# Shida Road, Nanchong 637002, China

    Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and Utilization, Northeast Normal University, 2555 Jingyue Street, Changchun 130117, China

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