By catching bats, these Filipino ‘virus hunters’ hope to stop the next pandemic

Researchers wearing headlamps and protective suits race to untangle the claws and wings of bats caught up in a big net after dark in the Philippine province of Laguna.

The tiny animals are carefully placed in cloth bags to be taken away, measured and swabbed, with details logged and saliva and fecal matter collected for analysis before they are returned to the wild.

The researchers call themselves the “virus hunters,” tasked with catching thousands of bats to develop a simulation model they hope will help the world avoid a pandemic similar to COVID-19, which has infected some 129 million people and killed 2.8 million individuals.

The Japanese-funded model will be developed over the next three years by the University of the Philippines Los Banos, which hopes the bats will help in predicting the dynamics of a coronavirus by analysing factors such as climate, temperature and ease of spread, to humans included.

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