EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – At the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine this summer, students are aiming to identify coronaviruses in bat species that are local to the Southwest United States. They have used genetic testing and immunohistochemistry, a laboratory-based diagnostic technique that takes small samples of bat tissues and subjects them to reagents that are specifically designed to detect coronavirus in tissue sections.

The research team included: Thomas Eiting. a Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology; Eric Babb, a second-year student doctor; and Amelia Hidalgo, another second-year student doctor at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In the wild, bats do not carry Sars-CoV-2. They actually provide immense benefits to their environments that include, helping control insect pests, pollinating desert flowers, and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Bats are also thought to serve as hosts for coronaviruses. The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 raised questions about whether bats native to North America can also serve as long-term reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2-related viruses.

The work the researchers have done will provide a baseline on the extent of the coronaviruses and how they are maintained in local bat populations while also creating a building block for improving human health.

“That’s really key to understanding its presence in our community and to ultimately try to understand how we might approach virus and virus transmission in these related issues from a human health perspective but that’s way down the line,” Dr. Eiting said.

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store