Bats could be the reason for the transmission and spread of MERS, the increasingly fatal and fast spreading respiratory disease.

MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has become an epidemic in South Korea, killing sixteen people with over 100 current cases and over 1100 globally since 2012. The virus, similar to the SARS outbreak in 2003, is a coronavirus which attacks the respiratory system as well as the kidneys with often fatal consequences.

Previously, the virus was though to be transmitted through camels, but new research has identified a possible new culprit: bats.

Scientists have poinpointed two mutations which share similarities between MERS in humans and MERS-like viruses in bats. These mutations allow for the virus to be contracted by human cells through a receptor molecule called dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4). The exact mechanism for the mutation is still being researched, but it is known that SARS developed in a similar manner.

Cover image: Wikimedia Commons