Dead Bats Could Provide AIDS Clue

Study finds similar immune system response
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2012 7:02 AM CST
Bat Die-Off Offers Clues in AIDS Fight
Nancy Heaslip of the Department of Environmental Conservation, inserts a radio transmitter into a little brown bat in an abandoned mine in Rosendale, NY, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

One positive development may come out of the study of white nose syndrome, the devastating disease killing off swaths of bats: insight into AIDS. Researchers studying bats who survived white nose, only to die anyway, eventually realized the bats' own aggressive immune response was to blame. After fighting off the white-nose fungus, their immune systems attacked healthy cells and tissue, leaving the bats' bodies and wings tattered. The same phenomenon, known as immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), has also been seen in people with AIDS, the Washington Post reports.

Now, researchers are hoping they "can look closely at the mechanism driving this intense response in bats and potentially get insight into this phenomenon in humans," says one. Potentially, new treatments for AIDS could be developed based on the findings. “Very often what we see in our patients is already seen in some form or another in nature and we want to understand these connections in order to facilitate new discoveries," says the editor of Virulence, which published the research. (More white nose syndrome stories.)

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