In 2002, SARS killed 750 people and sickened 8,000 more and cost the global economy at least $40 billion. SARS is part of the "coronavirus" family and infects the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.
Researchers found that a colony of bats in southern China carry at least seven SARS-like viruses. At least one of those viruses can infect people directly, according to the study, published in Nature.
This is the strongest evidence yet that SARS may come from bats, especially since the viruses can spread from any sort of contact from the mammals.
Past research suggested that people picked up SARS from mongoose-like creatures called civets, a delicacy in southern China, but they may no longer be necessary.
Because the disease can transmit directly from bats to humans without an intermediary, a SARS outbreak will be much harder to control or prevent. Although the civet may have initially introduced SARS to humans, they weren't necessary.
“It changes the equation” for public health, lead author Peter Daszak said.
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