These ecologists are bat-trapping 'virus hunters'

This team of scientists call themselves the ''Virus Hunters’’.

"Essentially I'm a bat ecologist, I've been working with bats for more than 20 years now..."

For nearly a decade, bat ecologist Phillip Alviola and his team have been studying bats and how their viruses can affect humans.

They’ve caught thousands of bats in the Philippines for analysis…and with the help of scientists from Japan, they’ve detected new viruses.

The team ventures out into forests and caves where bats are known to roost, and set up traps before sunset.

In most cases, they would then take saliva and faecal samples before releasing them in the wild.

"We just finished setting up a mist net. As you can see here, it's called the mist because the colours, the thread is made of nylon.''It's colour black and from the distance you can't actually see the net, so hence it's called, it blended, it blends with the forest background. So we use this for capturing bats."

Their latest project involved developing a simulation model that can predict the dynamics of coronavirus in bats by analysing specific factors like:

time,climate,season,and temperature

and their effects on viral transmissions and transmissibility to humans.

"What we're trying to look into are other strains of coronavirus that have the potential to jump to humans ...what are these areas that have the potential to be the ground zero for coronavirus infection."

'By using molecular techniques, molecular laboratory work, so we can determine if some of these coronavirus have the potential to infect humans, or what you call zoonotic to humans, the ability of the virus to jump from an animal host to a human host."

Alviola admitted there were risks involved in hunting viruses.

But said it does not deter him from studying it."If we know the virus itself and we know where it came from, we know how to isolate that virus geographically.

So we can implement some restrictions, travel restrictions, we can prevent city to city, province to province transmission."

"I think our project has this amazing promise of possibly avoiding the next pandemic by determining where, or possibly when the next pandemic will occur.’’