Vampire bats may seem like nightmares, but there are these mammals that drink blood and also transmit diseases. In Latin America, the bat Desmodus rotundus is the main carrier of rabies, which transmits when it feeds on cattle.
The total impact of rabies transmitted by vampires on cattle was not previously known, but the authors of a new PLOS study on Neglected Tropical Diseases used computer models to calculate detailed estimates for a remote part of Peru. Their analysis was based on farmers' questionnaires and national surveillance data for 11 years of rabies outbreaks of vampire bats.
The models suggested that there are 4.6 cases of vampire bat rabies for every case that is officially reported, to more than 500 annual cattle deaths in the study area alone. Animal mortality and vaccination costs were estimated at a total of more than US $ 300,000 per year, a large sum for impoverished subsistence farmers.
"This estimate, at least four times higher than official reports, is essential to plan and implement cost-effective measures to prevent and control the disease, which mainly affects low-income small farmers," the researchers say.
Their results also indicate that the large distance from farms to reporting offices can be an obstacle to reporting livestock mortality. Since farmers who perceived that the risk of rabies was higher were more likely to report cases of rabies and vaccinate their cattle, awareness campaigns could help reduce the burden of vampire bat rabies.
Research article: http: //journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0006105
Images Credits: Patrick Lentz, Flickr; Julio Benavides, 2017