This isn’t your reflection, but a common vampire bat. Here, you can see the bat’s incisors used to nick the skin of its prey, while anticoagulants in the saliva prevent clotting so it can lap up the free-flowing blood. But herein lies a bigger danger: rabies is transmitted via the saliva. Despite recent efforts to increase education, vaccination and bat population control throughout the Amazon basin, outbreaks of vampire bat-transmitted rabies have escalated. Affected communities are generally remote villages with limited access to vaccines and healthcare. Often they hold fast to traditional beliefs, attributing the disease to witchcraft, and are suspicious of vaccinations. Scientists now say that sustained human vaccination efforts are infeasible and new approaches are needed. They suggest taking advantage of grooming behaviour by introducing oral vaccine into the fur of captured bats, and giving vaccines to livestock populations so that bats will inoculate themselves as they feed.
Written by Nick Kennedy
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.