By Sally Robertson, B.Sc. Apr 14 2020
Findings from a study conducted by Chinese researchers suggest that similar species of bats carry similar viruses and that when these bats reside in overlapping areas, transmission between species occurs more easily.
The authors say the study provides an important basis for studying the evolutionary history of bats and viruses in the context of understanding how to monitor host species and endemic areas to prevent and control emerging viruses.
Bats are reservoirs for coronaviruses and paramyxoviruses that have been responsible for various life-threatening pandemics including the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002–2003, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2012, the 1994 Hendra virus (HeV) outbreak and more recently, the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. “It is important to understand the bats-viruses evolutionary history”
Given that bat-borne viruses are already known to be relatively host-specific, the researchers wanted to investigate this host specificity to see whether bats, as an ancient species, may have co-evolved with the coronaviruses and paramyxoviruses they carry.
“It is important to understand the bats-viruses evolutionary history and rules for the virus tracing,” say the authors…“This is the first systematical summary elucidating the relationship between coronaviruses, paramyxoviruses, host and geographical areas. It provides a theoretical basis for the viruses’ trace.”
For the study, Libiao Zhang ( Guangdong Institute of Applied Biological Resources ) and colleagues performed co-evolution analyses using nucleotide sequences of the RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) gene from 60 coronaviruses found in 37 bat species and of the RNA polymerase large (L) gene from 36 paramyxoviruses found in 29 bat species.
The team says the findings confirmed their hypothesis that coronaviruses and paramyxoviruses co-evolve with their bat hosts. The results can be found in a pre-print version of the paper (currently available in Research Square), which is undergoing peer review. MERSr-CoVs and human and camel MERS-CoVs
The study found that MERS related coronaviruses (MERSr-CoVs) isolated from the host species Pipistrellus hesperidus ( P. hesperidus ; found in Uganda) and Neoromicia capensis (N. capensis ; found in South Africa) were the most closely related to MERS-CoVs carried by humans and camels.
The nucleotide sequencing similarity between the isolates was more than 91%, and both bat species are members of the Vespertilionidae family, suggesting that the viruses may have evolved from a common ancestor that infects different species of bats found in Africa.
MERSr-CoVs isolated from the Pipistrellus abramus bat, the Tylonycteris pachypus bat and the Myotis daubentonii bat also shared a nucleotide sequencing similarity of more than 83% with camel and human MERS-CoVs and all these bat species are distantly related to the N. capensis bat. Daubenton's bat - Myotis daubentonii. Image Credit: D. Kucharski K. Kucharska / Shutterstock
Other viruses isolated from N. capensis, Hypsugo pulveratus, Vespertilio sinensis, Hypsugo savii , and Pipistrellus kuhlii shared a sequencing similarity with camel and human MERS-CoVs of more than 85%. Of these hosts, the Vespertilio sinensis, Hypsugo pulveratus, Hypsugo savii bats are closely related to the N. capensis bat and the Pipistrellus kuhlii bat is closely related to P. hesperidus .
The team says the 99.46% similarity in nucleotide sequencing and areas of bat host distribution between isolates from host Hypsugo savii and host Pipistrellus kuhlii suggests that the viruses might have originated from inter-species transmission of the same coronavirus strain in bats. Pipistrellus kuhlii bat. Image Credit: Yakovchenko Iryna / Shutterstock Related Stories
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