WHY ARE CDC DISEASE DETECTIVES IN A CAVE CRAWLING WITH SNAKES?

WIRED | 6/13/2018 | Wonbo Woo
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The 18-foot pythons in Uganda’s Python Cave don’t bother Brian Amman too much. It’s the black forest cobras that worry him.

“They're extremely venomous and known to be fairly aggressive,” says Amman, a disease ecologist with the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. A single bite from one of the 10-foot snakes can kill a human in as little as 30 minutes. “Although we've not had any encounters,” he explains, “because they're in there with all this food.”

Amman - Python - Cave - Food - Source

In 2008, Amman found himself in Python Cave looking for that food source: a population of roughly 50,000 Egyptian fruit bats. Scientists believed they could be carriers for Marburg virus, a hemorrhagic fever virus closely related to Ebola, and they were studying the bats’ behavior to try to understand how the disease spreads from animals to humans.

Amman is one of the CDC’s elite team of disease detectives, who travel the world to study dangerous viruses and bacteria in the hope of preventing human illness and death. He goes in prepared, carrying traps and nets (and even pillowcases) to catch and transport the bats.

Colleagues - Hypotheses - Animals

Then he and his colleagues get to testing their hypotheses about the animals.

“We think the bats with Marburg virus are going out and they're going into farmers’ cultivated fruit crops,” Amman says. “They'll give it a little bite.” Sometimes they’ll leave it behind on the ground, still carrying live virus. “If the next day or...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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