Piloting the use of indigenous methods to prevent Nipah virus infection by interrupting bats' access to date palm sap in Bangladesh

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Abstract

People in Bangladesh frequently drink fresh date palm sap. Fruit bats (Pteropus giganteus) also drink raw sap and may contaminate the sap by shedding Nipah virus through saliva and urine. In a previous study we identified two indigenous methods to prevent bats accessing the sap, bamboo skirts and lime (calcium carbonate). We conducted a pilot study to assess the acceptability of these two methods among sap harvesters. We used interactive community meetings and group discussions to encourage all the sap harvesters (n = 12) from a village to use either bamboo skirts or lime smear that some of them (n = 4) prepared and applied. We measured the preparation and application time and calculated the cost of bamboo skirts. We conducted interviews after the use of each method. The sap harvesters found skirts effective in preventing bats from accessing sap. They were sceptical that lime would be effective as the lime was washed away by the sap flow. Preparation of the skirt took ∼105 min. The application of each method took ∼1 min. The cost of the bamboo skirt is minimal because bamboo is widely available and they made the skirts with pieces of used bamboo. The bamboo skirt method appeared practical and affordable to the sap harvesters. Further studies should explore its ability to prevent bats from accessing date palm sap and assess if its use produces more or better quality sap, which would provide further incentives to make it more acceptable for its regular use.

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