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Could COVID-19 make Batman sick?

Blog Post

As a superhero, Batman is probably best known for being dark, brooding, and saying “I’m Batman” a lot. But he is also a super hero without any real super powers. He is very much a human, with an amazing array of cool bat-themed gadgets, like the bat-mobile. However, if he was to get a bat-like super power, it would probably be super-immunity.

Bats are mammals, just like us, so we share a lot of the same biology, but our immune systems react very differently to viruses. Bats are able to live happily with viruses like Ebola, Hendra, SARS and Corona viruses (like the one causing COVID-19). All of these we know can be deadly to humans. So what’s the deal?

Bats have an immune system that is always switched on and up loud. Part of the reason for this, it is thought, is that as the only flying mammals, they evolved a way to cope with the extra damage the stress of flying does to their cells and DNA. When these otherwise deadly viruses infect bats, their immune systems just maintains them at a safe low level and they co-exist with them quite happily.

So if Batman was to choose a superpower from bats, he could of course take the ability to fly, or even having super hearing (sonar detection) but right now, I think he’d opt for “super” immunity.

And if you’re keen to read a little more, check out some recent research.

Dr Rob

Published May 21, 2020

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