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Virus Hunters

How Disease Researchers  Were Trying to Head Off the Next  Pandemic.

Rainforests, the planet's hyper-diverse habitats, are the most likely places for dangerous emerging diseases to leap to humans from their native hosts, and cause widespread infection.

We've all heard that the virus that has crippled the U.S. and much of the rest of the world,  SARS‑CoV‑2, circulates naturally in wild animals--perhaps bats. And we've learned that this native host lives somewhere in Asian jungles. But there was little reporting on the Amazon, the planet's largest rainforest, which harbors a huge menagerie of animal diseases, that could ignite the next pandemic in humans.

Many modern scourges, including a deadly strain of yellow fever, a variety of leishmaniasis and hepatitis b are among the viruses that first infected animals in the Amazon before becoming human afflictions.

More than ten percent of  the world's bats, a large family of mammals that is associated with dangerous viruses such as SARS , Nipah, Hendra, rabies, Ebola and Marburg flit by the millions through the Amazon's vast forest tracts.

Hilaea went to the Amazon to draw a portrait of the painstaking--and at times dangerous--work of discovering, cataloguing and studying the diseases that lurk in the Amazon and that might become human infections.

We have published our work in Science magazine and the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

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