Detection of new genetic variants of Betacoronaviruses in Endemic Frugivorous Bats of Madagascar
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Bats are amongst the natural reservoirs of many coronaviruses (CoVs) of which some can lead to severe infection in human. African bats are known to harbor a range of pathogens (e.g., Ebola and Marburg viruses) that can infect humans and cause disease outbreaks. A recent study in South Africa isolated a genetic variant closely related to MERS-CoV from an insectivorous bat. Though Madagascar is home to 44 bat species (41 insectivorous and 3 frugivorous) of which 34 are endemic, no data exists concerning the circulation of CoVs in the island’s chiropteran fauna. Certain Malagasy bats can be frequently found in close contact with humans and frugivorous bats feed in the same trees where people collect and consume fruits and are hunted and consumed as bush meat. The purpose of our study is to detect and identify CoVs from frugivorous bats in Madagascar to evaluate the risk of human infection from infected bats. Methods Frugivorous bats belonging to three species were captured in four different regions of Madagascar. We analyzed fecal and throat swabs to detect the presence of virus through amplification of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) gene, which is highly conserved in all known coronaviruses. Phylogenetic analyses were performed from positive specimens. Results From 351 frugivorous bats, we detected 14 coronaviruses from two endemic bats species, of which 13 viruses were identified from Pteropus rufus and one from Eidolon dupreanum, giving an overall prevalence of 4.5%. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Malagasy strains belong to the genus Betacoronavirus but form three distinct clusters, which seem to represent previously undescribed genetic lineages. Conclusions Our findings suggest that CoVs circulate in frugivorous bats of Madagascar, demonstrating the needs to evaluate spillover risk to human populations especially for individuals that hunt and consume infected bats. Possible dispersal mechanisms as to how coronaviruses arrived on Madagascar are discussed.
New Genetic Variants, Betacoronaviruses, Endemic Frugivorous, Bats, Madagascar
Virology Journal, Vol. 12 (2015-03-12).
Razanajatovo, Norosoa H.; Nomenjanahary, Lalaina A.; and Wilkinson, David A., "Detection of new genetic variants of Betacoronaviruses in Endemic Frugivorous Bats of Madagascar" (2015). KIP Articles. 1335.