‘Virus hunters’ of UPLB aims to prevent another pandemic

While many of us are doing everything we can to avoid the dreaded coronavirus, a group of researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) is desperately looking for it.

They are the so-called “virus hunters” or researchers who take the risk to better understand this disease.

Their mission is to hunt bats that can carry the virus and prevent the possibility of another outbreak.

“Meron kaming study ngayon na essentially looking into mga viruses sa buong Pilipinas and then trying to create a risk map so ano ba yung mga areas sa Pilipinas na posibleng magkaroon ng outbreak galing sa mga viruses na makikita sa paniki,” explained Phillip Alviola, an ecologist from UPLB.

Wearing PPEs, they go to forests and caves inhabited by bats.

Traps are set and when caught, the bats are subjected to a swab as is done to humans and then released back into the forest.

‘Virus hunters’ of UPLB aims to prevent another pandemic

“Pine-preempt na natin, we are trying to predict, kung saan ba yung posible na magkakaroon ng outbreak. So gumagawa kami ng modelling, may mga statistical analysis na gagamitin para malaman natin let’s say sa isang mapa ng Pilipinas kung anong mga areas dun na hotspot,” said Alviola.

But as the study continues, Alviola advises the public to avoid eating bats or them to prevent the transmission of any animal-borne virus to humans.

He also has a request to the government.

“I am appealing to the government na i-encourage ang ganitong klaseng mga research and I’m sure yung mga different branches ng ating government have been making funds available for this kinds of research. But we want to be all inclusive so hindi lang siguro dito sa UPLB or sa Metro Manila but palawakin ang mga ganitong klaseng ng research.”

In January 2020, rumors circulated that the came from bat soup after photos of Wuhan locals eating the local delicacy emerged online.

The researchers, however, clarified that their conclusions require “further validation by experimental studies in animal models.”