AFP, published on Friday May 22, 2020 at 10:19 am
Scientists are investigating in New Caledonia a new bacterial disease suspected of being transmitted by bats, which affected between 2012 and 2019 about fifteen people, four of whom died, we learned on Friday medical.
This multidisciplinary Caledonian team received aid last week of 25,000 euros from the Pacific Fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to continue its work.
The bat, which is suspected of causing the new coronavirus epidemic, is the carrier of many viruses and has an extraordinary immune system.
In New Caledonia, after unexplained cases of patients suffering from weight loss, fever, haematological disorders and an enlarged spleen, the territorial hospital center (CHT) sent samples in 2017 to the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire de Marseille (IHU) of Professor Didier Raoult.
“A bacterium – Mycoplasma haemohominis – was then identified and it turned out that it had also been found in fruit bats (large bats), in another department of the Marseille IHU”, explained to the ‘AFP Doctor Julien Colot, from the CHT microbiology laboratory.
Called hemolytic fever, this new zoonosis affected 15 patients in New Caledonia between 2012 and 2019, four of whom died. The other patients were quickly cured by antibiotic treatment.
“All but one of the patients had been in contact with fruit bats, either hunting or cooking, and most had eaten them from 3 weeks to three months before symptoms started,” said Colot also .
The dogfish is an emblematic animal and prized game in New Caledonia where there are four species, three of which are endemic. Also called a flying fox, this mammal, for regulated hunting, is eaten in stew or bougna (traditional dish). In the population, its potential risks are little taken into account.
A diagnostic test (PCR) was developed at CHT with the help of the IHU to detect this new bacteria, but scientists now want to better understand its modes of transmission and extend their work to areas of the Pacific where this fruit bat. is also present like Vanuatu or Wallis and Futuna.
“Other reservoirs of this bacteria are also suspected such as rats, ticks or plants potentially contaminated with the saliva of fruit bat,” said Dr. Julien Colot.
Some 200 fruit bat will be collected as part of these investigations, the first results of which are expected in 2021.