In the heat of biologists and zoologists struggling to find the reason for the white-nose syndrome in bats, they have discovered something very interesting about the tiny, flying mammals. Some of the bats had been killed not by the infection, but instead by their own immune systems, which had become hyper-aggressive to combat the disease and had fought the bats’ own cells. This phenomenon of “cellular suicide” struck those examining the animals as similar to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in humans, and researchers have decided to do more studies on the connection. Something in the bats triggers “a mad army of white blood cells massed for a lethal attack,” and what AIDS researchers are hoping to discover is how the bats immune system can recognize the attack with no clear chemical signal. If this signal can be properly understood, it may lead to insights on how the human immune system functions as well.
Although very little progress is made on this research, and though there are drastic differences between the immune systems of humans and bats, this stuck out as a great discovery to hope for.