Coronavirus Infection and Diversity in Bats in the Australasian Region


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April 2016


Following the SARS outbreak, extensive surveillance was undertaken globally to detect and identify coronavirus diversity in bats. This study sought to identify the diversity and prevalence of coronaviruses in bats in the Australasian region. We identified four different genotypes of coronavirus, three of which (an alphacoronavirus and two betacoronaviruses) are potentially new species, having less than 90% nucleotide sequence identity with the most closely related described viruses. We did not detect any SARS-like betacoronaviruses, despite targeting rhinolophid bats, the putative natural host taxa. Our findings support the virus-host co-evolution hypothesis, with the detection of Miniopterus bat coronavirus HKU8 (previously reported in Miniopterus species in China, Hong Kong and Bulgaria) in Australian Miniopterus species. Similarly, we detected a novel betacoronavirus genotype from Pteropus alecto which is most closely related to Bat coronavirus HKU9 identified in other pteropodid bats in China, Kenya and the Philippines. We also detected possible cross-species transmission of bat coronaviruses, and the apparent enteric tropism of these viruses. Thus, our findings are consistent with a scenario wherein the current diversity and host specificity of coronaviruses reflects co-evolution with the occasional host shift.


Coronavirus Infection, Diversity, Bats, Australasian Region

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EcoHealth, Vol. 13 (2016-04-05).